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Published, May, 1941 
Second printing, May, 1941 


For My Family 


August 1938: South WaleSy Connecticut I 


September 19 38 -February 1939: New York 33 


June 1939: New York 77 


September i939~December 1939: New York 1 25 

January i94o-March 1940: New York 193 


April i94o-July 194.0: Net York 245 


Labor Day Weekend, 1940: South Norwalk 317 


August 1938 



^THOUGH it was August, the night was 
very cold, and Harriet sat close to her new husband and 
kept her right hand in his pocket. They could see the moon 
light through the windows of the station wagon, but it was 
yellowish, distorted by the smoky isinglass which showed 
the prints of dogs paws and human fingers. 

In the front seats, Harriet could see the heads of Joel s 
family. The car lights silhouetted them into four black 
knobs. They were singing, soprano, tenor, alto and a tune 
less bass. In the darkness Harriet smiled at them tenderly/ 
Joel had said that she would like them, but he had for 
gotten the important thing, which was that they would 
like her. Joel hadn t realized yet how uncertain she was, 
and afraid of people. But there could be no fear where 
people were so friendly. Harriet had never known that a 
family could be as aif ectionate as this and at the same rime 
as unpossessive. The only other warmth she had ever 
known had been grasping. 

The station wagon rode crunchingly into the driveway 
and stopped with a little splatter of gravel against the 
wheels. They sat in silence for a moment, their song 
stopped, enjoying the fresh, clear night. Joel s oldest sister, 
who had been driving, made the first move. She got out 
abruptly, and the others, moved by her action, opened their 
doors and joined her. Together they turned towards the 
house and saw the porch lights go on. Elaine, Joel s mother, 
stood on the doorstep to welcome them, and they greeted 


her hilariously. Harriet was as eager as any of the rest of 
them, and she could hardly recognize herself as she took 
Elaine s arm impulsively, joining Joel in describing the 
movie they had just seen. They all followed into the house. 

In the living room, drinks sat waiting on a tray by the 
couch. There was a fire in the brick fireplace, so huge that 
it nearly lit the room. Only a few lamps in far corners 
supplemented it. Even they wouldn t be needed, Harriet 
thought, in an ordinary-sized room, but this was the biggest 
living room she had ever seen. It was long and low, like 
the great kitchen it had once been. Hooks still hung from 
the ceiling where they had once supported bacon sides and 
hams. The Dutch oven beside the fireplace had been turned 
into a woodbox. Harriet had always imagined that people 
who had money lived stiffly; she had not realized that com 
fort could be a luxury too. Attractive as this room was, 
there was nothing useless in it. The great armchairs had 
been built for softness, there were ashtrays and cigarette 
boxes at every hand, and there were knitting bags, tennis 
rackets, golf clubs, and magazines lying about. It was only 
because it was all so big that it was not untidy. 

Elaine poured beer and highballs and the girls sat down 
while the men carried their drinks to them. Joel brought 
Harriet a glass of beer and set the bottle down by her side 
so that she could refill her glass. After he had gone back for 
his own he sat down beside her, leaning against her legs. 
The firelight pinkened his long, thin hand, and made the 
glass in it glitter. 

Pris, Joel s younger sister, had turned on the big radio- 
victrola in a corner and was dancing with Fulke White- 
head, the young Harvard boy. Harriet smiled at them; they 
were so much like puppies, frank and not too passionate in 


their affection. Pris s blue eyes looked a little sleepy, but the 
skin of her round face was taut and freshly colored and 
her movements were energetic. She looked like a charming 
baby. It was always surprising to hear the tough, clipped 
speech that she affected coming out of that childish mouth. 
They swooped past Harriet and JOG! now, and Pris leaned 
down and took Harriet s glass out of her hand. 

"Mmmm," she said, sipping the beer and then handing it 
back. "Thanks." They went on dancing without having 

Joel flung his pillow at their legs. "Get some of your 
own," he said in mock anger. 

"The Randolfs always defend .their brides," Eat, his 
other sister, said lazily. She stretched out her long legs in 
their scarlet corduroy slacks and looked at them. She was 
older than Joel, and married to Gray* Beavers, who sat on 
the couch beside her. "They don t start beating them until 
the third morith of marriage, generally," she added. Gray 
smiled down at her and the firelight caught his glasses and 
the polished height of his forehead. 

"I didn t know that tradition," he told her. They all 
laughed; Gray looked so slight and his shoulders were so 
narrow. Beside him, Kit was very dark and vigorous. He 
looked around at them and then joined good-naturedly in 
the laughter. When Kit took his hand he grinned at her. 

It was odd that they had married, Harriet thought, look 
ing at them. They were such different people. Kit was a 
Randolf, with beauty, poise and assurance. And Gray was 
quiet and shy. He was taking a Ph.D. in English literature 
at Columbia, Joel had told her. The family was rather 
funny about that; they were a little awed by it and yet 
they couldn t quite take if seriously. Harriet, whose father 

6 August 1938: 

was a professor, and who knew Gray s academic world so 
well, liked him, but she could not quite be as easy with him 
as she was with the others, in spite of all they had in 

Pris broke away from Fulke and sat down on the arm 
of Elaine s chair. "That s enough," she said. "I m exhausted. 
Get me a drink, Fulke." 

Fulke went to the table smiling a little. He was a tall, 
thin boy and his eyes were always faintly bloodshot. He 
would have been handsome except that there was already 
a weak look to him like an animal who had slept too long 
in a cave. He reminded Harriet of a younger Gray. And 
she thought, Pris probably liked Fulke for the same reason 
that Kit loved Gray. Or, for that matter, she thought, smil 
ing self-consciously, that Joel loved her. She and Fulke 
and Gray were all strange creatures in the Randolf tribe, 
inferior creatures really, but fascinating to the Randolfs be 
cause they were strange. 

Elaine put her hand up and touched Pris s knee affec 
tionately. "You drink too much beer, darling," she said. 
"You ll get fat. When I was a girl, ladies never drank so 
much beer." 

"That s the trouble," Pris said. She looked like a round 
blonde child, with her bare legs swinging from the chair. 
"I m not a lady. Fulke said so." She looked mockingly at 
Fulke, who had brought a stool closer to her and was sit 
ting on it with a highball in his hand. 

"Well," Fulke said, embarrassedly. "That wasn t exactly 
what I said." 

"Yes, it was," Pris told him. She laughed down at her 
mother. "A big, fat Irishman, who hadn t shaved for a 
week, asked me to dance with him last night. When we 


were at the Silver Slipper. Fulke got mad because I said yes. 
But he was fun. He gave me quite a whirl." 

Fulke shook his head. "Maybe it was fun," he told her. 
"But you nearly got us into a brawl. Did you realize that? 
The guy was cockeyed." 

"I wish I d been there/ Joel said lazily. "I d have given 
Pris the beating she deserves." His left hand reached for 
Harriet s ankle and caressed it. 

"Fulke dances so nicely too," Elaine said mildly. "I 
should think you d rather dance with him." Harriet 
watched her smilingly. She had a very fine face, she 
thought. Her bones were so clearly marked, and the flesh 
on them so meager. She looked like one of the gray-haired 
ladies in those aristocratic cigarette ads, who are so well 
groomed and have such slim figures. She had good long 
hands and feet like Joel s, and her head was set on her shoul 
ders with perfect balance. 

"Pris is too confined, that s all," Kit said. She had finished 
her sandwich and got up to brush the crumbs in her lap 
over the fireplace. The light silhouetted her profile. "You re 
too strict with her, Mother. There s no spice to her life. She 
has to cut loose when she s away from home." 

"You re all idiots," Elaine said, and laughed. "Except 
Harriet. It s a good thing we ve got you, Harriet. We need 
somebody sensible in this family." 

Harriet was grateful and at the same time embarrassed at 
being singled out. "I m only sensible compared to the rest 
of you," she said. She hadn t altogether caught the trick of 
their humor yet. Joel s long fingers went around her ankle, 
forming a ring against her bare leg. He squeezed lightly and 
she moved so that she could rest her arm against him unob 
trusively. She could not quite get used to the openness of 

8 August 2938: 

his affection and she was grateful that he seemed sensitive 
to that and had become more discreet before other people. 
They were all quiet, as if Harriet had failed to return a 
tennis ball batted to her, and stopped the game. She felt 
no discomfort though; there was too much peace in their 
attitudes as they sat looking into the fire. And she was a 
little sleepy. Her eyelids closed and opened again, her eye 
lashes making a mist against the red blaze. Joel turned and 
looked up at her. "Sleepy?" he asked her. 
She nodded, smiling. 

"We d better be going to bed," he said, but he made no 

She sat there with the padding of her heavy chair cloak 
ing her, her head against its back. Sleepiness came com 
pletely and she heard the others talking as if through an 
anaesthetic. They were subdued now, and their sentences 
were short. Gray turned on the couch and stretched out his 
legs, putting his head on Kit s lap. She put one hand under 
his chin, and held her cigarette with the other, putting her 
arm out over the arm of the couch so that the smoke would 
not get into his eyes. Elaine smiled at all of them, her back 
still straight in contrast to their relaxed positions. She must 
have had a rigid upbringing, Harriet thought drowsily, she 
never slumped. 

The voices rose now and then when the women spoke, 
and descended into bumbling when the men spoke. The 
fire subsided so that there was no longer a flame, but only 
coals, red in the blackened chimney. Joel s weight was 
pleasantly heavy against Harriet s legs, and he reached up 
once and took her cigarette out of her hand where it hung 
limply, and threw it in the fireplace. 
She was nearly asleep when he moved again and she saw 


that the others had got up now and that Elaine was moving 
back to the tray with her glass. 

Somebody turned out the lamps, but aside from that they 
made no move to straighten up. A maid would do that be 
fore they came down to breakfast in the morning. Joel got 
up, groaning at the effort, and turned to pull her up with 
him. She came limply, and he put his arm around her shoul 
ders. "Bed now," he said, smiling down at her. "Don t fuss." 

"I won t," she told him. They moved with the others to 
the stairway. The hall, outside the living room, was cool, 
and Harriet shivered a bit. Joel felt her movement and his 
arm tightened. "Look at the moon," he said. She turned to 
peer out through the branches that came across the little, 
many-paned hall window. The moonlight lay magically 
across the lawn, brightening it except where the black 
shadows of trees fell. "Let s go out for a second," Joel said. 
With his other hand he opened the front door and kicked 
open the copper screen. They passed through out into the 
night and stood on the grass looking up. They were quiet 
together, and tender. Harriet thought of the rimes when she 
had walked home after dark, and seen the moonlight, and 
wished there had been somebody to share it with her. She 
had always been alone, she realized. Her father had not 
noticed things; he got his pleasures from books and talk. 
He seemed to lack some of the senses; he took no notice of 
the visual pleasures, or the physical ones. She had once ac 
cepted her father s life as the only desirable one. He had 
taught her to enjoy things by herself and it was not until 
she had met Joel that she had learned that enjoyment could 
be extended by sharing it with another person, even word 
lessly. Thinking about it now made her feel grateful and 

I0 August 

soft. She looked down at the ground, a remnant of her old 
training making her hide her emotion. 

Suddenly Joel turned her to him and kissed her on the 
mouth. The soft, nearly sentimental feeling she had had 
united with something stronger and more definite. This was 
another sort of companionship too, this desire, and as she 
leaned against him, she took an almost wanton pleasure in 
meeting his kiss with an equal passion. 

They turned back into the house through the empty hall 
and climbed the stairs to their room above. The moonlight 
came through the windows and paled the floor beside the 
bed. Harriet walked over to the bureau and began letting 
down her hair without turning on a light. She was unwill 
ing to say anything; they had caught a mood and brought 
it upstairs with them. Speech might interrupt it. Joel was 
standing behind her, motionless, and she looked back over 
her shoulder to see what he was doing. He was watching 
her reflection in the mirror, she saw, and she smiled at him 
and turned back. She had never been particularly pleased 
with her face and her body but she liked them tonight be 
cause they pleased Joel. In the moonlight color was strained 
away and what she saw was black and white like a photo 
graph, her wide-spaced eyes, her dark hair and her white 
shadowless face. 

The hand with which she was holding the hairbrush 
trembled and there was a strained feeling in her throat. The 
moment seemed somehow static, the quiet room, the moon 
light and Joel standing wordlessly behind her. Now she 
had a new impulse not to hurry but to continue brushing 
her hair and hold the moment there. Anticipation was so 
perfect that she was unreasonably afraid that nothing else 
could be better. 


But Joel came to her and took the brush out of her hand. 
"That s enough for now," he said. He kissed her half impa 
tiently, and she Dressed against him with sudden grateful 


They ate breakfast casually on a table on the terrace. 
When Harriet and Joel came down the next morning, Pris 
and Fulke had already eaten and gone riding. Kit and Gray 
were still there, and so was Elaine. She always sat at the 
coffee pot until the last one of them had finished. 

It was late enough so that the sun had reached the terrace 
and spread beyond it on the lawn. Below them there were 
gardens, not very formal and planned so that their true pat 
tern could be appreciated only by an airplane. Immediately 
below the terrace was a thick bed of golden glow, the yel 
low heads showing slightly above the flagstones to the peo 
ple sitting at the table. Beyond all this were the woods ris 
ing up on the hills, making green and purple and blue. The 
house was very isolated and its beautifully kept grounds 
seemed all the stranger with the woods for background. 

Harriet took her seat and spread her napkin across her 
lap. Joel, beside her, looked his handsomest, freshly shaven 
and in a clean white shirt open at the throat. Elaine was 
smiling affectionately at them and she gave Harriet a pleas 
ant feeling that they could share Joel without friction or 

"It s almost lunch time," Elaine said. "I never saw you 
sleep so late." 

Kit laughed and brought her coffee cup to her mouth 
and Harriet felt her face warm with embarrassment. Joel 
looked undisturbed. "Privilege of a bride and groom," he 
said to his mother and she blushed too. 

i2 August 1938: 

"Joel, for heaven s sake!" she said. 
Harriet smiled. She was beginning to see that there was a 
pattern to the way they talked. Each of them had his own 
part. Elaine was a sort of gentle stooge and her remarks 
were a springboard for the flippancies of the others. She 
liked it too; it was teasing, but it was a sign of their affec 

Gray looked up from his newspaper at Harriet. "You and 
Joel want to play some tennis after breakfast?" he asked 

"If you d like to," Harriet said meekly. She played badly 
and would have preferred watching, but no Randolf could 
understand that, she thought, half ruefully. They took part 
in everything. 

"That s a good idea," Joel said. He put a spoonful of 
scrambled eggs on Harriet s plate and she smiled at him, al 
though the helping alarmed her. She was not used to such 
large breakfasts. Joel looked at her proudly. "This country 
air is giving you an appetite," he said. "We ll be getting 
some meat on your bones pretty soon." 

"Joel, don t talk to Harriet that way," Elaine said re 
provingly. "She s got a nice figure. You ll make her feel 
she s too thin." 

"I am, a little," Harriet said, looking down at her wrist 
with its bones showing clearly. She wished that she had the 
strong, rounded arms of Kit or Pris. 

"Nonsense," Elaine said. "You re like me-aristocratic." 
She looked proudly down at her own wrists and hands, 
which were of a very different type of thinness, boney and 
long. All of them laughed at her. 
"Madame la Marquise," Kit jeered. 


"Just the same," Elaine said mildly. "It was very fashion 
able to have my kind of figure when I was a girl." 

Harriet, watching her, wondered if she had ever had any 
sort of love except her husband s or her children s. She had 
no feeling that conventional barriers would stand in Elaine s 
way, but she felt that she was genuinely absorbed in her 
own home. She wondered what sort of a person Mr. Ran- 
dolf had been. Joel had told her very little about him ex 
cept that he had died about five years before and had left 
his wife and children two large houses, this one and one in 
New York, and an income to make them comfortable for 

Pris and Fulke came clattering up the terrace steps, their 
riding boots hitting against the stones solidly. "Give me 
,some coffee, Ma," Pris said, sitting on the edge of the ter 
race and letting her legs dangle in the golden glow. "Fm 
hungry again." 

"We re going to play tennis," Kit told her. "Want to 
join us?" 

"Sure," Pris said lazily. "After we change our clothes." 

Fulke groaned. "You certainly lead a wearing life," he 
told Pris. 

"Now don t try to back out," Pris said. "Tennis will be 
good for you. Take the kinks away." 

Elaine said sleepily and almost irrelevantly, "I wish Mr. 
Graham didn t have to come today. It s so nice, I d like to 
watch you playing tennis." 

"Why don t you?" Eat said. "Bring Mr. Graham along. 
Ask him for lunch and you can talk about business after 
wards. What are you seeing him for, anyway?" 

"I don t know," Elaine said. "He s the one who made the 
appointment. And he has to go back to town on the after- 

I4 August 2938: 

noon train, so I won t be able to persuade him to stay until 
later. Oh, dear, I wish people weren t so businesslike." 

Kit laughed. "I bet you do," she said. "Who s going to 
meet him?" 

"William went down to the station," Elaine said. 

Joel and Harriet had finished their breakfasts and Joel 
got up, beckoning to her to follow him. They climbed 
down the terrace steps and sat down on the lawn, Joel lean 
ing on one elbow. The sun felt hot and lazy. Harriet bent 
down and picked up a blade of grass. She smoothed it be 
tween her fingers. Joel had taught her yesterday how to 
make a whistle but she was afraid to try. "Go ahead," Joel 
said, grinning at her. It excited her that he knew what she 
was thinking. She brought the grass into her joined hands 
and put it awkwardly to her mouth. The only sound was 
her own breath which felt hot against her palms. 

"I m afraid you re hopeless," Joel said, laughing. 

Harriet felt ridiculously disappointed. "I guess I am," she 
said. She threw the grass away. 

Kit and Gray came down and joined them. Gray care 
fully put his newspaper under him for fear the grass was 
still damp. Kit lay sprawling, her brown legs looking lovely 
against her white sharkskin shorts. The four of them were 
silent, both thoughts and speech absorbed by the sunlight. 
Harriet wished feebly that she didn t have to play tennis. 
She would like to lie here all morning. 

"There s Mr. Graham now," Elaine said suddenly. Joel 
straightened up and Harriet looked with him down the 
driveway. The heavy, shining station wagon was coming 
along the road with dust hovering around it. William s dark 
face was familiar at the wheel and when he saw them 


watching them he smiled so that his teeth looked white. A 
gray-haired man was sitting beside him. 

"Who s Mr. Graham?" Harriet whispered to Joel. 

"The old family adviser," Joel said in an open tone of 
voice. "Of Graham, Graham, Graham & Humperdinck." 

"Don t be silly, Joel," Elaine said. "Graham and Tyson. 
He s our lawyer, Harriet. I don t know what I d do with 
out him. He takes care of everything for me. It s so compli 
cated being a widow, you know. But Mr. Graham doesn t 
bother me with details." 

"He s probably robbing you for all you re worth," Joel 
said cheerfully. 

Elaine got up as the car turned into the driveway. "Don t 
say things like that, Joel," she said. "They bring bad luck." 

She came down the terrace stairs and passed them to greet 
Mr. Graham. Harriet couldn t hear what she said, but she 
admired her gracious gestures, the ease with which she 
stood, the casualness with which she turned towards the 
house, taking Mr. Graham s arm to draw him with her. He 
was a funny, citified little man in his gray suit and stiff 
straw hat. 

"I don t believe you ve met Joel s wife, Mr. Graham," 
she said as she came near them. Harriet sat up and straight 
ened her skirt. "This is Harriet," Elaine said. 

"I didn t even know Joel had married," Mr. Graham said. 
He had a rather old-fashioned New York accent. 

"Oh, yes," Elaine told him. "They got married last 
month. They re just back from their honeymoon in Mexico 
to stay with us for a week before Joel goes back to work. 
Don t they look sunburned and nice? " 

Again Harriet was embarrassed, but Joel laughed and got 

1 6 August 

up to shake Mr. Graham s hand. "How are you, sir?" he 

Mr. Graham shook hands with him and greeted the 

"Now I suppose you ll be wanting to get right down to 
business," Elaine said. "I couldn t off er you a cup of coif ee 
before we start, could I? You can t have had time to get a 
decent breakfast." 

"Thank you, no," Mr. Graham said. "I m afraid I ve got 
quite a lot to talk over with you, and I must be back this 
afternoon, I have another appointment at five." 

"Whatever you say," Elaine said. She shrugged. "Well, 
good-bye, children. We ll see you at lunch. It s at two 
o clock so that Mr. Graham can make the three o clock 
train. Don t be late." 

They went into the house together, and Kit rolled over 
on her stomach. "Well," she said. "How about that tennis?" 
Harriet let Joel pull her up. "Oh," she said mournfully, 
"I certainly feel lazy." 

"This will be good for you then," Joel said. "Shake 
you up." 

He held her hand and they followed Kit and Gray down 
the road. The tennis courts were a hundred yards or so 
away from the house. There were two of them, white and 
well kept by William. On one side there was a little house, 
weathered and unpainted, which held the rackets and balls 
and sneakers. There was a wide enough space around the 
courts within the high, chicken-wire fence to allow benches 
and wooden armchairs to be placed here and there. The 
benches were painted red and the chairs yellow. It had the 
air of pleasant ease that the Randolf belongings always 


wore. Like their station wagon, and their faded carpets, and 
their careless but expensive clothes. 

Harriet and Kit sat on one of the red benches while Joel 
went to get their shoes. Gray, who was already wearing 
sneakers, began hitting the ball against the back fence, to 
practice his serve. Each stroke swished and then hit the 
wires so that they gave a little, with a metallic sound, and 
the ball came back more weakly. Harriet was watching him 
and forgot to take off her shoes until Joel came back and 
told her to hurry up. Then she fumbled with her laces, feel 
ing awkward, and when she laid her saddle oxfords down 
beside Kit s scarlet clogs, she thought they looked very dull. 
The comparison of the two pairs of shoes started her on a 
morbid line of thought. Kit and Pris were a dashing pair; 
Joel must have grown fond of her because she was small 
and shy and a contrast to them. But wasn t that a false basis 
for affection? How could she live up to it? She was moody 
for a second, and then her common sense returned and she 
laughed at herself a littlewhat thoughts for a young bride 
to have. At that moment, Joel took her right foot in his 
hand and began to put on her sneaker for her. She felt the 
warmth of his palm against her instep and when she looked 
at him he was smiling up at her with only amusement for 
her slowness. She didn t tell him what she had been think 

Kit had already made her change and was batting balls 
across to Gray now. Harriet let Joel finish lacing her shoes 
and stood up to join them. The tennis racket that he gave 
her was a child s racket, the only one that seemed light 
enough for her, and she swung it, trying to look noncha 
lant* The ground was very bright. It would be hot again 

x g August 1938: 

and already she felt the ebbing of strength that came to her 
whenever she got out on the courts. 

The game immediately became a contest between Kit 
and Joel. Gray was competent, but not as good as either of 
them, and their play covered their partners errors so that 
Harriet and Gray were quite unimportant. As Harriet grew 
tired, she gradually stopped concentrating. If she thought 
hard enough she could usually get her racket on the ball 
and return it over the net. But now the ends of thought 
were slipping, she forgot to keep her eye on the ball, she 
forgot to hold her racket in the right position and she for 
got to shift her grip for the backhand. Her timing went to 
pieces and she felt helplessly weak. Joel was magnificent. 
He covered the whole court and she began to try to keep 
out of the way, only taking balls that came directly to her. 
They won the set finally, although her serve had been so 
poor that they lost it each time. 

There was an ache to Harriet s back now, running along 
her spine and gripping her shoulders. The sun had given 
her a headache and when she moved it was hard to lift her 
feet. She hoped that nobody would suggest another set. 

Pris and Fulke had come out during the game and were 
sitting on a bench watching them. "Fulke doesn t feel like 
playing," Pris said. There was a little good-natured mock 
ery in her tone but no sullenness. "How about taking me on 
for a set of singles, Kit?" 

Kit agreed and Joel and Gray decided to take the other 
court for singles of their own. Harriet was tacitly left 
out. She sat in one of the yellow wooden chairs, her feet 
stretched in front of her, and wished that she had a glass 
of water. Fulke moved over to the end of his bench so that 
he could talk to her. "They look nice, don t they?" he said 


of Pris and Kit, who were hitting balls back and forth to 
each other. Harriet watched them. Beyond, in the other 
court, Joel and Gray were having a noisy game, but it was 
not always as easy to see them; the girls got in the way. 

Fulke talked to her desultorily and she made no effort 
with him. She was used enough to his undergraduate type. 
They had come to her father s house for tea and she had 
had to entertain them. You didn t try to project your own 
personality, but only to encourage theirs. He was telling 
her now of a student peace movement in which he had 
been involved. She had heard undergraduates talk peace 
demonstrations for a good many years. The boys who were 
excited by it now were more one-tracked than ever. She 
sympathized with them in theory, but there was a sort of 
unworldliness about their movements that made them un 
sympathetic. Demonstrations used to make your throat 
heavy and move you to tears. They seemed a little futile 
now. There would be a war soon and she visualized Fulke 
and his friends going off to training camp, still waving their 
flags, but going nevertheless. They had no idea how to 

"We were going to send a bus load of students to Con 
gress," Fulke was saying. "Only the term ended before we 
got a chance to. Then a lot of the boys had to go home and 
we couldn t get a big enough group together. It s too bad. 
It would have been a good idea." He looked wistfully at his 
long, grimy sneakers. 

Pris howled as Kit sent a long, low ball straight at her 
feet and she had to jump aside to make an attempt at it. 
Fulke and Harriet looked up and lost the impetus of their 
conversation. Without Harriet s sympathetic prodding, 

20 August 

Fulke had nothing more to say, and they watched the game 
for a while. 

Watching became monotonous again, though, and Har 
riet s head turned from one side to the other, following the 
ball absent-mindedly. Fulke stirred beside her. "I wish there 
were something I could do after I get out of college to help 
the movement," he said sadly. He laughed at himself. "Ill 
probably be too busy fighting to do anything, though," he 

Harriet smiled too. "What do you want to do?" she 
asked. She encouraged him amiably to talk about his ambi 

"Writing, I guess," Fulke said, and went on with his 
plans, trying hard to seem practical. 

Harriet answered him with her eyes still on the courts. 
Here, with the sun on her and her arms and legs bare, she 
had forgotten about cities and jobs and wars, and it was 
hard to think about them. This boy, though, was used to 
idleness and sunshine, and he was probably eager to get 
away from them. His mind had already left them. She tried 
to seem interested. 

"What about newspaper work?" she asked. "A lot of 
people try that." 

"No," Fulke said, shaking his head. "I think it s bad for 
your style. That business of having to grind out stuff day 
after day. Very bad. Journalists seldom write with any dis 

"Perhaps," Harriet said, without taking him up. 

There was no excitement to her in Fulke. She supposed 

that his type was rarer than most, but she had met more of 

them than of any other. Joel, now, she thought, looking 

across at him, he was much stranger than Fulke. She had 


never known men who didn t use words to express them 
selves, whose sensitivity was almost entirely physical. She 
wondered if perhaps Fulke s kind were not overrated. Her 
father would not have agreed with her. But in her father s 
life there were a lot of spaces. Perhaps contact with Joel s 
sort of person could have filled those spaces. Her own life 
had become so filled. Every little experience could mean ex 
citement or pleasure with Joel. The touch of a hand, a good 
meal, fine weather, storms, new clothes, sports, you couldn t 
list all the things which had so suddenly become important. 
Fulke, perhaps Gray, certainly her father, pursued their 
ideas and learning so single-mindedly that they cut out real 
living. They were trying to analyze life, and they had lost 
it. Joel had it without trying. She smiled as she watched 
him, with his good long body lunging for the balls and his 
feet fast in the whitish sand of the courts. 

Gray was laughing, and lost a point because he had 
laughed. To Joel the game was as important as anything 
else he did, and he was excited now, his pleasure in it had 
become heightened. He served a fast ball for the last point, 
and Gray missed it completely. They laughed again, to 
gether now, but for different reasons. Gray was laughing 
at himself, Harriet knew, and Joel was laughing because his 
body had obeyed him so well and he was delighted. They 
shook hands across the net as they walked along it to reach 
the side of the court. Joel came over beside Harriet and sat 
on the arm of her chair. "Whew!" he said. "It s hot, dar- 

She put her hand to his forehead and felt it moist and 
warm. "Poor thing," she said. "You ought to sit in the shade 
for a while and cool off." 



"I think some beer will be good," Joel said. "I ll tele 
phone William." 

There was a house-phone extension in the small shack 
and Joel went in to use it. Fulke smiled at Harriet. "This is 
certainly the life," he said. "A telephone by the tennis 

Gray joined them after putting the frame on his racket. 
They watched Kit and Pris, and Joel, coming back, sat 
down on the arm of Harriet s chair again. Pris was serving 
the last point when William arrived with the beer, the cop 
per cans still looking icy and wet. Pris deliberately threw 
the game by serving extravagant doubles. "Oh, boy, beer," 
she said, and flung her racket down on the court. "Gimme." 
Kit leaned her racket against the net and followed more 
slowly. William filled glasses for all of them. 

"It s nearly two o clock," Gray said, looking at his 
watch. "Elaine wanted us to be back promptly." 

"That s right," Joel said. "Drink up. I want to find out 
what Mr. Graham was so bothered about." 

"If Elaine can remember," Kit said. She sipped the cool 
beer. Her face was darkened and more handsome than ever. 
Her smooth, black hair had curled in little wisps around her 
forehead where she perspired, but there was nothing tired 
in the way she held her back. 

Finishing their drinks they left their glasses on the 
benches and chair arms and put on their shoes. Harriet s 
feet dragged in the sandy road on the way back. There 
were no trees in this particular stretch and the sun made it 
look pale, with the long wild grasses by its side seeming 
tropically rich. 

Luncheon was set on the terrace and they found Elaine 
and Mr. Graham already waiting for them. Harriet was in- 


stantly aware that something serious had happened between 
them. There was an unfamiliar puzzled look on Elaine s 
face. And she greeted her children as if she wanted them 
to share the trouble. She took Joel s hand possessively, urg 
ing him to sit on her left. Harriet had the feeling that she 
wanted protection from Mr. Graham, who was sitting on 
her right. 

The others seemed not to notice that anything was 
wrong. Pris sat sprawling on her chair and reached immedi 
ately for a piece of bread. They were laughing and talking 
quite naturally, but their good humor seemed awkward, 
while Mr. Graham was embarrassingly silent. Harriet saw 
his smooth old face watching the table and she felt as if 
he were reproaching them. Pris leaned across Harriet and 
reached for a radish in front of Joel. Joel slapped her hand, 
laughingly. "Wait until you re served, young pig," he said. 
Harriet thought, something s wrong. Their boisterousness 
seemed inappropriate to her. Elaine laughed nervously and 
more shrilly than usual. 

"Children," she said. "Behave!" 

Their hunger seemed wrong, too. They ate so heartily, 
while Harriet had lost all appetite, and she noticed that Mr. 
Graham and Elaine barely touched their food. She won 
dered what had happened. She didn t know Elaine well 
enough to guess the depth of her trouble, and it occurred 
to her that this might be something quite minor and Elaine 
was dramatizing it. 

Kit and Gray were discussing their plans for the winter 
and the others were taking part. Gray had two more years 
in which to finish his studies, and until he could earn a liv 
ing he and Kit lived with Elaine in a small apartment on the 
top floor of her New York house. Kit wanted Gray to take 

24 August 

some time off so that they could go to Florida at Christmas 

Gray felt that this would interrupt his studies too much 
and he was arguing mildly. There was nothing quarrelsome 
about the discussion. Harriet would have enjoyed it if she 
had not been abstracted. 

"Darling," Kit said. "Shakespeare has been dead for so 
long, he can afford to wait a little longer, can t he?" 

"Not Shakespeare, Kit," Gray corrected patiently. "]ohn 
Gait. Yes, I suppose he could wait, but please consider my 
manly pride. I don t want your mother to support me any 
longer than she has to." 

"But, Gray," Kit said, "she loves to. Gives her something 
to do with her money. She thinks of herself as a patron of 
the arts, sending you through college. Puffs her up no end. 
Makes her feel like a de Medici or something." 

"All very nice," Gray said. "And Elaine is a sweet and 
forbearing woman. But what about me?" 

"Oh," Kit said, waving her hand at him laughingly. "You 
know darned well you don t want to finish that thesis. 
You re having the time of your life working on it. When 
you finish you re going to have to get out and grind, and 
you know you ll hate that. Come on, baby, let s stall a little 
while longer and go to Florida. The Maysons are down 
there, they want us to stay with them. We ll have a picnic." 
"Kit and Gray," Elaine said, looking up at them. "Sorry 
to interrupt you, but Mr. Graham has to catch his train." 
Kit looked quickly at her watch. "Why, it s a quarter to 
three!" she said in surprise. "I didn t realize it was that late. 
Shall I drive him down, Elaine?" 

"Thank you, Kit," Mr. Graham said, getting up with a 
scrape of his chair. "But I believe William had planned to 


take me. I think I hear him bringing the car around now. 
It s very kind of you." 

They stood up casually, still holding their napkins in 
their hands, and told him good-bye. His presence had made 
very little impression on them, and after he had gone down 
the terrace steps, carrying his black briefcases, and William 
had driven him off, they took up their conversation again as 
if it had not been interrupted. Only Elaine sat looking after 
him, and when Kit appealed to her, she turned in surprise 
and said, "What?" 

"Elaine s in a black study," Joel said. "What s the matter, 
darling, didn t somebody declare a dividend?" 

"Children," Elaine said. She laid her napkin down by her 
plate. "The strangest thing has happened. I can t quite take 
it in yet." 

Fulke looked embarrassed. "Wouldn t you like me to go, 
Mrs. Randolf?" he asked. "If you want to talk business?" 

Pris said strongly, "Oh, for heaven s sake, Fulke, stop be 
ing a gentleman. It s all right, we have no guilty secrets. 
What s the matter, Elaine?" 

"Why, most of our money seems to have disappeared," 
Elaine said. She looked at each of their faces in turn, as if 
she could get help from them. 

"What do you mean?" Joel asked. His tone seemed no 
sharper than usual. Harriet had put out her hand instinc 
tively to touch his, but he made her feel as if she was mak 
ing too extravagant a gesture. 

"That s what Mr. Graham said," Elaine said. "You know, 
Gray, he told you about it when you went to see him with 
me last spring." 

"He told me that you were living on your capital," Gray 
told her. "But somehow I didn t realize it was serious I 

26 August 1938: 

thought there was enough for your lifetime and more than 

"That s what I always understood," Joel said. 
"But the thing is, we ve been living on the capital for 
years," Elaine said. "And then we lost a lot of it. John 
hadn t invested it in the right things or something. I know 
Mr. Graham told me that my investments had depreciated, 
but I just thought he meant I had to economize temporarily. 
Since we didn t go to Europe this summer, I thought every 
thing would be all right." 

"Whoa, hold on a minute, Elaine," Joel said. His voice 
was still calm. "Are you sure you ve got this all straight? It 
doesn t seem possible that we ve just lost everything. I 
thought Dad left you a good income for life." 

"Well, I thought so too," Elaine said sadly. "He always 
talked about how he was going to take care of us. But Mr. 
Graham says that he hadn t settled his affairs very well 
when he died he had borrowed most of his life insurance, 
for one thing, and for the other, he had invested a lot of 
money in some stock that s practically worthless now." 

"Graham spoke to me about the life insurance," Joel said. 
"But I thought that was just a drop in the bucket." He 
looked at Harriet. "It s too bad I didn t look into this more 
closely," he said. "But to tell the truth, I thought we were 
all right. After all, Dad was a banker and I don t know 
much about those things." 

"Well, you can see," Elaine told them, "that we ve never 
had much income. I felt the same way you did, Joel. John 
had always talked so much about those wonderful stocks 
of his, and how I should always keep them, that I didn t 
want to let Mr. Graham reinvest the money. I thought he 


was just rather prissy, you know, lawyers are always telling 
you to economize." 

Joel looked across the table at Kit. "I think we d better 
go in and see Mr. Graham ourselves," he said. "And see if 
Elaine s got this right." 

Kit nodded and so did Elaine, evidently without taking 
offense. "I wish you would," she said. "I seem to have been 
awfully muddled about it. But I m afraid that I m right this 
time. You see, he thinks we ought to sell the New York 
house. That s definite enough, isn t it?" 

"More easily said than done, I d imagine," Joel said. "No 
body wants to buy those big old houses nowadays. And 
real-estate taxes are going up, I see." 

"Well, Mr. Graham s found a man who wants to buy it," 
Elaine said. "He ll take it over for the mortgage. Why John 
left me a house with such a huge mortgage on it, I can t 

"You mean you won t get anything?" Joel asked incredu 
lously. "But what s the sense of selling it, then?" 

"I wish I had Mr. Graham here to explain it all to you," 
Elaine said helplessly. "But it seems that the house isn t 
worth anything like what he paid for it, and that the mort 
gage is for thirty thousand. We couldn t possibly get more 
than that for it, Mr. Graham says." 

"Then why sell it?" Kit asked. "Joel s right." 

"Because it costs so much to run," Elaine told her. "The 
taxes, and the amortization and interest on the mortgage, 
the coal bills, the servants, the furnace man, repairs, all 
those things you d be surprised how much they cost." 

"Oh," Kit said considering. She looked down at her plate 
and picked up a fork for a second, then put it down again. 

28 August 

"Well," she said, laughing. "If you re right, I guess that 
settles our argument, Gray. No Florida for us this year." 

"I told Mr. Graham to go ahead and offer the house to 
this man he knows," Elaine went on. "We ll have to move 
to an apartment." 

"I don t think that ll be so bad," Pris said thoughtfully. 
"Joel was going to get a place of his own, anyway, weren t 
you, Joel?" 

Joel nodded and Harriet smiled at him timidly. "If this is 
true, Harriet and I can take care of ourselves, Elaine," he 
said. "You don t need to worry about us. My salary s 

Fifty dollars a week, Harriet knew he made. He had a 
comfortable job in an advertising agency, where he did 
some copy writing but was generally a sort of an account 
salesman, eating and having drinks with college friends of 
his who were in prominent firms of one sort or another. 

"Then Elaine and Kit and Gray and I will find us a nice 
roomy apartment somewhere," Pris went on. "Say, I think 
it ll be fun. We can do our own housekeeping." 

"Oh, we re not that poor," Elaine protested. "At least I 
don t think so. We can afford a maid, Pris." 

"Well maybe somebody to do the laundry and the 
heavy cleaning," Pris said thoughtfully. "But it would be 
fun to do our own cooking, Elaine. I always wanted to 
learn to cook." 

"Heaven help us!" Kit said, putting her hand over her 

Gray said slowly, "If things are reaUy this serious, Elaine, 
there s no reason why you should have to take care of Kit 
and me. I can look for a job." 

"Oh, no, darling," Kit said quickly. "I won t have you 


giving up all these years of work. I ll look for a job myself. 
I won t have anything else to do." 

"What could you do, Kit?" Gray said. "No, I don t like 
that idea. You re not trained to work, it would be too hard 
on you." 

Harriet watched them eagerly. In a way, this was delight 
ful. It was like starting to read a book and finding it unex 
pectedly good. When she married Joel she had perhaps been 
foolish not to consider what he would be like under dif 
ferent circumstances. But now she was seeing that and she 
could find no fault with him. He and his family were brave 
people, she thought. They had never been used to anything 
but luxury; the prospect of being without it must be more 
frightening to them than it was to her. She knew, even with 
her limited experience, that pressure of this sort can bring 
out all sorts of uglinesses in people. But here were the Ran- 
dolfs, not only being strong, but actually making a joke out 
of the whole thing. 

"Oh, I can do something," Kit said carelessly. "But, 
Gray, it would be foolish for you to quit studying now. 
Think of it practically, darling. You ve made a big invest 
ment, and now you re going to throw it up just before 
you re ready to cash in on it." 

"Two more years" Gray murmured. 

Joel interrupted. "Not if you work all summer too, 
Gray," he said. "You can help best that way. Kit s right." 

"I suppose so" Gray said reluctantly. "I suppose it s just 
my pride. But I hate to have Kit supporting me for such a 
long time." 

"But I want to, darling," Kit said. "It isn t as if it would 
be a hardship. I d be bored stiff, just sitting home doing 
nothing. That s why I wanted to go to Florida. Well, in- 

3 o August 1938: 

stead of going to Florida, I ll look for a job. I may not be 
trained for anything, but I m intelligent and I m strong. 
There must be something I can do." 

There probably was, Harriet thought, although before 
she had met Joel she herself had tried to look for work and 
she knew how hard and humiliating it was. But there were 
two differences between her and Kit. One was that if they 
were really broke, Kit would need a job and because of that 
she would be more likely to get one. But the important dif 
ference was in their manner. Kit was not only handsome, 
she had a great deal of assurance. She always did things 
well, and she would have that confidence behind her. It 
couldn t fail to impress people. 

Although Kit and Joel kept warning them that all this 
might be unnecessary, they began to discuss plans. They 
must go to New York immediately, Elaine said, and start 

"If we really have to," Joel added. 

"It s going to be a hard job," Elaine went on reflectively. 

"Gawd!" Kit said strongly. "It certainly is. What will 
we do with all that furniture we ve got down there?" 

"Send some of it up here, I imagine," Elaine said. "And 
Joel will probably want some of it." 

"I d like that Governor Winthrop desk in the library, 
Elaine," Joel said. "Be nice for us, won t it, Harriet? Oh, 
that s right, I forgot. You ve never seen it." 

"You can t have that, Joel Randolf," Kit said. "I m saving 
that for my grandchildren." 

"You start producing some descendants and I ll think 
about turning it over to them," Joel told her. They began 
to argue good-naturedly about the various pieces of furni 
ture. Each member of the family had favorites they wanted 


to keep. They seemed to Harriet to lose sight of the main 
problem in discussing the particulars this way, but she was 
entranced by their good humor and their ridiculous, ex 
uberant talk, and she gradually got drawn into it until she 
was laughing with them. What pleasant nit-wits they were, 
she thought. And she began to develop an almost supersti 
tious feeling that people as light-hearted as they were must 
have some sort of special protection. That sort of confi 
dence could never be destroyed, she thought. 

"I must have had this in mind," Joel said, putting his arm 
around her, "when I married such a good cook." 

She laughed. Really, living was an easy matter when you 
approached it with the Randolfs. 


September ig^S-February 

.OLDING the curtain rod over her shoulder, 
Harriet climbed the stepladder in front of the tall living- 
room windows. Through the bare glass she could see the 
red brick and brownstone houses across the way. Children 
were playing in the street, and because of the unusual heat 
they were dressed in sleeveless, scanty clothes. Their voices 
came in through her opened window like a shrill rhythmless 
piece of music. Sometimes when she was tired they irritated 
her, and she wanted to go and call to them to keep quiet. 
But now their balls bouncing against the stoops were a 
pleasant sound, and she liked to hear their laughter coming 
high above the other noises. 

She put the rod in its brass holders, one end missing the 
catch and slipping so that she almost lost it. When she had 
finally fastened it, she smoothed out the curtains, enjoying 
their coarse red folds, adjusting them so that they hung 
symmetrically. She had to climb down again and stand off 
to make sure they were right. Then she pulled the window 
shades down half-way and folded up the ladder. Now the 
living room looked finished. Without the curtains they had 
felt naked and had sat there in the evenings without turning 
on the lights. 

They had half of the first floor of an old private house 
which had been turned into an apartment. There was a liv 
ing room with high ceilings and moldings around the doors, 
and a small bedroom to the right of it. One closet had been 
made into a kitchenette and there was a bathroom down the 


36 September 1938 -February 

hall with an old-fashioned tub on legs and a marble wash- 
stand. Harriet had chosen the apartment, with its incon 
veniences, because she hoped the high ceilings would give 
Joel the atmosphere of his former home. They could have 
afforded something more modern and perhaps more spa 
cious. The living room here was large but the bedroom was 
small. Their fourposter bed crowded it, leaving room for 
a dresser and a small bedside table and nothing else. 

Joel had not seen the possibilities of the place. He had 
complained about it, and was not interested in furnishing 
it. Harriet worked while he was away at the office. She had 
made a red monk s cloth slip cover for the studio couch, 
and the red curtains she had just finished hanging. One 
wing chair by the fireplace had a worn blue-velvet covering 
and she had fixed that with pale turquoise-and-white mat 
tress ticking. The rugs were small, goat s-hair with black 
backgrounds and wild blue and green flowers on them. Joel 
had some charming Japanese prints in a greenish watercolor, 
and she had framed them with narrow black molding and 
hung them. The furniture was good; they had brought it 
from Elaine s house. There was a handsome mahogany side 
board which Harriet had polished up until it looked glow 
ing. And the Governor Winthrop desk was good between 
the two windows. It had become an attractive room. The 
curtains completed it. Bookshelves lay along the wall on 
either side of the fireplace and they had plenty of books to 
fill them. Harriet had sent for all of hers and her father had 
added some to them in a sudden thoughtful impulse. The 
books were gay, in red, blue, black and green bindings with 
their golden letters catching the last light from the street. 
Harriet had planned a cool meal because of the heat. She 
went into the kitchen now and made hot tea and put it into 


the icebox to cool. There was a can of jellied madrilene 
waiting to be opened and she had sliced raw carrots and ar 
ranged them on a plate with celery. She lit the oven so that 
it would be hot enough to broil the swordfish quickly, and 
set on a kettle of water for the vegetables. She moved effi 
ciently in the little room, because this was a ground in 
which she was expert. It was exciting to take out her new 
knives and spoons, part of the "Bride s set" of cooking uten 
sils she and Joel had bought with a good deal of laughter. 
She strung the beans deftly, splitting them so that they 
would be slim and tender. There was summer squash too to 
be prepared. She tried not to economize on food; there were 
other things they could do without which Joel would not 
miss so much. The frozen raspberries thawing now on top 
of the icebox were expensive, and she could have made 
some pudding for desert, but she knew Joel hated such 
dishes. Besides that, if you bought carefully you could do 
rather well. She had already discovered the push-carts on 
Bleecker Street where the vegetables were cheap if you bar 
gained for them, and fresher than those in the stores. It was 
not much of a walk, just enough to give her some exercise. 
She could not manage her home as Elaine and Pris and Kit 
did, making gaiety out of the mistakes, and eating cheese 
and crackers one day because they had had steak the day 
before, but she could provide steady comfort and she could 
do that without bothering Joel with her problems. She 
laughed to herself silently as she remembered Pris strug 
gling with a recipe from The Ladies* Home Journal and 
then throwing the mess into the garbage can and swearing, 
"Who the hell would want to eat this junk anyway! 
Damned fluff. Run down to the corner, Gray, and buy 

38 September 19 38 -February 

some lamb chops, will you? You just have to stick those in 
the oven, don t you, and they get done by themselves?" 

She finished her preparations and turned out the kitchen 
lights so that it would be less hot. Joel was late, she thought, 
looking at the little wrist watch corded onto her wrist. She 
went into the living room and pushed the Cogswell chair 
around so that it faced the window. Even such temporary 
disorder disturbed her, her room had become so fixed in her 
mind. But she wanted to see into the street where there was 
noise and people. She was lonely sometimes, which was 
queer, because she had lived alone a great deal and had al 
ways been self-sufficient. 

As she sat there she heard a small noise at the front door 
and she knew it was Joel s key in the lock. She jumped up 
hastily and pushed the chair back into its correct position. 
"Joel," she said, and he came in, laying his hat on the little 
table by the door. 

He looked very neat, although it had been so sticky all 
day. His tropical worsted suit had held its creases and his 
white shirt looked smooth around the collar. Only his face 
had a higher flush on it, and there was a little red mark 
where his hat band had pressed. 

"Hello, darling," he said. His voice had the light tender 
ness in it that she looked for every evening as if she were 
afraid it might not be there some day. 

"Hello," she said. She went to him to be kissed, and 

rested against him for a minute afterwards. "Did you have a 

good day?" she asked. She smelt liquor on his breath and 

supposed that was why he was late. He had been having a 

drink with some prospective client. 

"Fair," he said. "I ve been up to see mother and the kids." 

"Oh," she said, smiling at the thought. "How are they?" 


"Pris has taken to feeding them so many cocktails they 
don t mind what they eat," he said, laughing. "Or at least I 
think that s the theory." 

He came further into the room and looked around him, 
"What have you been doing?" he said. "Did you put cur 
tains up?" 

"Yes," she said proudly. "How do you like them?" 

"They re good," he said. He looked around him. "This is: 
a fine room now. You re a clever gal, Harriet. I really didn t 
think you could get it looking so nice. It s funny what a. 
difference those curtains make. What else have you done 

"Rearranged the furniture a little bit," she said. "Look, 
I put this table over here so you can use the ashtray when 
you re in your chair." 

He laughed delightedly. "Darling," he said. "Maybe I m 
not a very satisfactory young husband. I know I ought to 
be aware of every detail, but I m afraid I hadn t even no 
ticed it before." 

He went over and sat down in the armchair. "This is 
swell," he said. "Where s my pipe and slippers, baby?" 

"You re too young for slippers," she said. "They come 
after our second child. Along with a dog and a good book." 

She came over and sat on the arm of his chair. "Do you 
really like it, Joel?" she asked. "The apartment, I mean. I m 
always so worried that you ll miss your old home." 

"This is nicer," he said. "It s beautiful and it belongs to 
us. I like it better." He put his arm around her waist and 
pulled her down on his lap. She leaned against him happily. 
"You shouldn t worry so much," he said tenderly. "I m not 
so hard to please." 

"Oh, I didn t mean that," she said hastily. "I know you. 

40 September i^S-February 1939: 

aren t, you ve been sweet. But it s not what you ve been 
used to and I want to be sure you like it." 

He put his mouth against her hair and blew gently so 
that a little wisp went fussily across her cheek and tickled 
her. She brushed it away with her hand and he grinned at 
her. They were quiet for a few seconds, first a quiet of con 
tentment, and then Joel s hand came up against her breast, 
and she felt the change of his mood. She stirred a little and 
kissed him on one cheek so that he would not be offended. 
"I ve got to get dinner," she said. 

"All right," he told her, smiling. "I ll lay off." He embar 
rassed her and she laughed awkwardly. As she got up and 
walked to the kitchen she felt self-conscious, knowing that 
he was watching her. She switched on the light overhead 
and he came in behind her and put his arm lightly on her 
shoulder. "What have we got?" he asked her. 

"Oh, swordfish," she said. "And vegetables. All right?" 
"What do you have to do to swordfish?" Joel asked her. 
"Does it take much cooking?" 

"Not long," she said. "You just broil it for about twenty 

He leaned past her and pulled the broiler door open. 
"Say," he said. "This is fiendishly hot, Harriet." 
"It has to be," she said. "To do a good job." 
"I don t want you cooking in that heat," he said. "Let s 
go out for dinner." 

"I don t mind, honestly, Joel," she said. "And every 
thing s fixed. 

"It can last another day, can t it?" Joel asked. "Or you 
could eat it for lunch tomorrow, couldn t you?" 
"I suppose so," she said slowly. The fish probably 


wouldn t keep in this heat, but the vegetables would be all 
right. "Do you really want to eat out?" she asked him. 

"Yes, let s," he said coaxingly. "I hate to have you fussing 
around in there on a day like this. Let s go to Enrico s and 
have a cocktail and a fine spread. I feel like celebrating." 

"Have you got any money?" she asked, hating to seem so 

"No," he said. "Not enough. But Enrico knows me, he ll 
let me sign a check." 

She hated that too, but she disliked the idea of nagging. 
"All right," she said. She reached up to the top of the ice 
box for the raspberries and put them inside where they 
would keep. Joel turned the oven off for her, and stood 
holding the light chain for her to pass by him. Her hat was 
in the closet by the front door and she stooped to put it on 
in front of the little mirror. Joel went into the bedroom and 
brought out her purse and gloves. 

"Is this all you need?" he asked. She smiled at him. 

"Yes," she said. "I don t even really need that. It s quite 

He handed it to her. "We ll take it along anyway," he 
said. "So you can at least look prosperous." 

She saw that he had forgotten to turn out the central 
light, and reached her hand back through the door to press 
the switch. He laughed at her. "You must have taken a 
Home Economics course in college," he told her. 

"I learned that stunt before I was out of swaddling 
clothes," she said. "It s inbred in me." She wondered if 
those little thrifty instincts of hers would cause trouble be 
tween them one day. She would try to give them up except 
that they were still necessary. But perhaps she worried too 
much. Joel didn t seem bothered, he was amused by them. 

42 September lyjS-February 

They walked down the dark sidewalk, feeling young and 
well-dressed beside the tired, carelessly clothed men and 
women who watched them from the stoops. A band of boys 
whom Harriet had been watching a moment ago from the 
window were standing by the drugstore on the corner and 
they had to break apart to let Harriet and Joel pass. One of 
them whistled tauntingly and it gave Harriet a queer feel 
ing to hear it. A little while ago she had been so sympathetic 
with those boys. It seemed impossible that they should think 
of her as a strange young woman passing them in the street. 

Enrico s, on Fifth Avenue, was not a typical Greenwich 
Village restaurant. It had space and elegance, and it looked 
like an old Murray Hill house. They went up a flight of 
brownstone steps to the first floor, where a quiet young hat- 
check girl in a black dress met them. Beyond her, Enrico, 
wearing a well-tailored suit, bowed to them and took them, 
smiling, to a little table. The walls were papered hand 
somely in a green paper with white rope designs, and the 
high ceilings and doors had carved molding around them. 
There were long white curtains, draped naturally at the 
windows. Each little table had its own lamp so that there 
was no overhead glare, and the linen was white and the sil 
ver and glassware shining. Harriet smiled as Enrico called 
her Mrs. Randolf and asked Joel about his mother and sis 
ters. The Randolfs had eaten here for a good many years 
and now Harriet was a member of the family, to be greeted 
enthusiastically. She had been here once or twice before 
and it was always pleasant to have so much attention, to be 
advised about the best foods and wines, and to have a spe 
cial salad mixed for them. But as she picked up the menu she 
was reminded again of how expensive it was, and her eye 
automatically sought the cheapest dish. 


Joel would not let her order it, however. He had planned 
a dinner himself and Enrico agreed with him that it would 
be a good one. She leaned back in her chair and left the 
ordering to them, but she was tense and she could not relax. 
She heard Joel asking for broiled mussels, swordfish steak, 
salad and raspberry ice. Enrico suggested a Chilean-type 
Rhine wine which he said was good, and they decided on 
half a bottle. It was ironic, Harriet thought, that the menu 
was so similar to the meal she had deserted at home. 

She watched Joel s animated face and his easy gestures. 
This was the sort of thing he knew better than his present 
kind of living. It seemed like the greatest sort of luxury to 
her, and unfamiliar. To Joel their apartment must be un 
familiar; he must think of it as a sort of camping place. If 
he did not get back to these old ways of his every now and 
then, roughing it would lose its humor and he would begin 
to dislike it. 

This was necessary, then, as a tonic for Joel. She might 
have spent the money otherwise. On something permanent, 
or put it away in savings so that they could have two or 
three evenings of pleasure instead of one expensive one. But 
perhaps Joel was right. Perhaps it was better to be free of 
money for one evening, not to worry about the cost of 
things, be extravagant and gay. Perhaps it was better than 
squeezing it out to cover several evenings, each one limited. 

A waiter laid the mussels before them and Harriet felt 
hungry now in the cool dining room. She picked up her 
little fork and tested them. Joel grinned at her. 

"Nice?" he asked. "Isn t this better than bending over a 
hot stove?" 

She nodded smilingly. 

"I have a special reason for taking you out tonight any- 

44 September tyjS-February 293$: 

way," Joel said. "I haven t told you yet. But I had lunch 
today with Henry Tyler." 

"Who s he?" Harriet asked him timidly. 
"He s a fellow I went to college with," Joel told her. 
"He was a year ahead of me, but we played on the tennis 
team together. He s in the advertising department of Con- 
way s now." He smiled to himself at the thought. 

"Conway s drugs?" Harriet asked him. "You mean you 
want to get their account?" 

"Ummm," Joel said, nodding. He played with the mus 
sels, pulling them gently out of their shells. "They re dis 
satisfied with their present agency, or so Tyler says, and 
he s going to introduce me to his boss. If I can get that ac 
count it will be a big thing for me. I ll get a commission, 
and I think maybe a promotion." 

"Oh, swell, darling," she said, leaning across the table in 
her eagerness. Hearing Joel talk, hearing him use the busi 
ness vocabulary which she had met only in books, she won 
dered suddenly what he was like in the world of his office. 
She realized that she had no idea. Did his charm and good 
manners help them there or were they so evident? Prob 
ably, she decided. There would be a definite place in his 
business for a pleasant sort of person. Somebody who knew 
how to talk to people. Those very qualities that had always 
made her fear for his success might be the ones that were 
useful to him. It didn t matter perhaps that he wasn t effi 
cient and he wasn t hard. There were enough people like 

"You re the perfect little woman," he said, laughing. "So 
She laughed too. 
"The funny papers are right," he said. "Young married 


people always act true to type. Even two unusual, brilliant, 
startling young people like us. Here you are, lighting the 
lamps at dusk and kissing me at the front door when I get 
home, and here I am, telling you what sort of a day I had at 
the office." 

"I think it s nice," she said contentedly. "I like being like 
all the young married couples." 

"So do I," he told her. "It just surprises me, that s all Do 
you think I ll pace the floor and all that when we have our 
first child?" 

Harriet finished her last mussel and laid her fork down 
on the plate. He had jerked her back to insecurity again. 
She remembered Mr. Graham s stern old face when she and 
Kit and Joel had gone to interview him. "You ve been 
brought up very luxuriously. Very luxuriously." He had 
looked at Harriet as if he expected her sympathy. "It will 
be hard for you to adjust yourselves," he had told them. 
Joel had laughed at him after they had left the building, but 
Harriet had felt that Mr. Graham had appealed to her to 
keep an eye on them, and she had been aware that he 
thought of all of them as babies. Now it seemed to her that 
Joel was being too careless. "You don t have to think about 
children for a while yet," she said slowly. 

"Now, now," Joel said. "No gloomy thoughts. Darling, 
be cheerful. This is no joke. I think I ll be making enough 
money for us to have quintuplets in another year." 

The waiter cleared away their plates piled with the mus 
sel shells and brought the handsomely arranged dinner 
dishes, the swordfish flanked by browned potatoes and 
stringbeans delicately cut and pale green. 

"I hope so, Joel," Harriet said. She watched him salt and 

46 September i^^S-February 1939: 

pepper his vegetables as he always did. He liked a lot of 

"If I get this Conway account," Joel said, "I think I ll go 
in and talk to old Mr. MacCrae and ask for a raise. Commis 
sions are all very well, but I want a good regular salary." 

She must be feeling as a mother does when her son gets 
his first job. Joel was as strange to the role of wage-earner 
as a sixteen-year-old sweeping the floor in a grocery store. 
Until now, she had been doubtful of his ability. A mother 
must feel that too, she thought. When someone you love is 
forced to go out and get along with others, you find it im 
possible to believe that his virtues and his charm will be as 
evident to them as they are to you. 

But his confidence engendered a confidence in her that 
she became aware of physically before it reached her mind. 
Slowly she felt more gay, more sure. It was completely 
without explanation, a rising of the pulse, a strengthening 
of the stomach, that influenced her more profoundly than 
all the reasonable things she might have said to herself. The 
feeling grew until she met his own mood. She could feel the 
point where they touched, and she suddenly smiled and 
shoved her glass over to him with an abrupt gesture to have 
him refill it with the pale wine. 

Enrico appeared to mix the salad for them, making a 
great ceremony out of it. Harriet watched his skillful hands 
manage the green stuffs and saw that although he poured 
out his dressing materials carefully he did it with speed. The 
greens were turned in the wooden bowl until they became 
limp and oily wet against its sides. Then he transferred 
them to their plates and they looked coolly tempting. Har 
riet and Joel took up their forks while Enrico watched for 
their reactions. Harriet smiled at him to show her pleasure, 


and Joel smacked his lips exaggeratedly. Enrico looked de 

"You should tell my wife your recipe, Enrico," Joel said 
to him. "Now that I ve got to eat her cooking." 

"No, no, Mr. Randolf," Enrico said, grinning. "Then 
you don t come to Enrico s. Eh? That s not so good. I keep 
it a secret." 

They laughed together, Enrico a good deal longer than 
they, and Harriet felt childishly happy. She wanted Joel to 
say something funny so that they could keep on laughing, 
she wanted to have more wine and to be spontaneous and 
witty. The salad was good and she ate it with appetite, al 
most wishing she could have more of it, she had enjoyed it 
so keenly. After that the waiter brought them ices and cof 
fee, and Joel ordered brandy. 

They sat for a long time over the cups of coffee and the 
brandy. The room was cool and Harriet felt prosperously 
stuffed. She heard the voices of the other diners dwindle as 
the hour grew later and the waiters passed them less often. 
The business of the room became even more subdued and 
she felt as if she and Joel were alone together. She leaned 
lazily against the wall and fingered her little brandy glass. 
She was a fool to worry about the future and their happi 
ness. Joel didn t worry, his family didn t. Why should she? 
Gaiety and carelessness took you along just as easily as fore 
thought, she decided fatalistically. She was banded together 
now with Joel and his family and she would impede them if 
she followed stiffly. 

"What U we do after dinner?" Joel asked her. He had 
called for the check and was signing it without looking at it. 

"I don t know," she said blissfully. "What?" 

48 September i^S-February 

"Dancing?" Joel asked her. "On some roof? That s what 
I d like to do." 

She felt heavy-legged and enchanted, as if she could not 
move. But she knew that the air outdoors would waken her 
and she liked the idea of the dancing. She liked the thought 
of moving to another little table and having another drink, 
and now and then getting up leisurely when the orchestra 
played |g. particularly languorous tune and dancing with 
Joel s arm around her, pressed against his body. She smiled 
a little bit at the thought. 

"That would be nice/ she said approvingly. "That 
would be lovely." 

On Sundays Harriet and Joel had dinner with Elaine and 
the rest of the family. The Randolfs always had Sunday 
dinner together, Joel told Harriet that even when he and 
the girls were away at college they came down on week 
ends so that they could eat with their mother. She had not 
quite realized, Harriet thought, what a devoted family they 
were. In spite of their carelessness, they rested on traditions 
that were as firm as a Puritan s morals. There were the Sun 
day dinners, the weekends together in the country, dozens 
of small things which held them together. Even when they 
were away from each other, they listened to the same radio 
programs, they read the same newspapers and the same 
books. There were so many small habits a family could have 
in common. It was rather nice to think that Kit and Joel 
were marrying and branching out, carrying those habits to 
their husbands and wives and later to their children so that 
that particular way of living would not break up. 

Elaine had chosen an apartment just off Riverside Drive 
in the neighborhood of Columbia. It was one of those old- 


fashioned houses that rent cheaply and that are pleasantly 
but not smartly situated. Joel and Harriet looked in the 
mail-box as they rang the door bell and Joel used the tele 
phone to tell Pris that there was a letter for them down 
stairs. "Haven t you been out yet?" he asked. 

Harriet heard Pris s voice squeaking through the trans 
mitter, -v 

"No," she said. "I ll come down. Wait a minute." 

Joel lit a cigarette and he and Harriet leaned ag^nst the 
vestibule wall, talking softly together while they waited. 
Through the glass door, with its iron bars, they could see 
the slow old elevator coming down, first its ropes and then 
the floor of the cage, and the elderly operator opening the 
gates for Pris. She was wearing lounging pajamas of tur 
quoise wool, and she was a bright, contrary figure in the 
dark hall with its potted palms and oil paintings and red 
carpet stretching like a little path from the elevator to the 
front door. 

She let them in, still laughing over her shoulder at some 
thing the elevator man had said to her. "Hi," she said. She 
kissed both of them, standing on her tiptoes to reach Joel s 

"If this is just a bill, I m going to be sore," she said. She 
brought the little key out of her pocket and opened the 
mail-box. "I hate to think how long this has been here," she 
said, turning the letter over in her hand. "We all keep for 
getting to look. We re used to having the mailman throw 
the letters in the window. Remember, Joel, how he did 
down at the house?" 

"There s no delivery on Sunday," Harriet said. "So it 
must have come last night at the latest." 

"That s right," Pris said. "It s from Fulke. Haven t heard 

50 September ly^S-February 

from him for ages. I thought he was deserting the sinking 

She put the letter in her pocket and pushed the door 
wide with her foot. "Come on in," she said. "I hope you re 
hungry. I have a magnificent dinner planned for today." 

"We always eat a full meal before we come here," Joel 
said, letting Harriet pass before him. "In preparation." 

"Oh, shut up," Pris said laughingly. She kicked sideways 
at Joel, her blue-sandaled foot coming flashingly out and 
down before Joel could catch it. 

The elevator man stood smiling at the gate, waiting for 
them to come in. "May I run it, Mr. McCready?" Pris 

"Now, Miss Randolf, you know that s against the rules," 
Mr. McCready told her. He smiled at Joel and Harriet. 
"She never gives up trying," he told them. 

The gates closed and he brought his lever over so that the 
cage rose slowly. There was a creaking sound as they passed 
the three floors before they came to their own. They could 
smell cooking in the apartments they passed, and the halls 
themselves had a musty old smell. 

"I love this mausoleum," Joel said, after Mr. McCready 
had let them out at the fourth floor. "It s always nice to 
think of Pris and Kit here. Such a good safe place for young 


"Oh, you don t know the vice that goes on in this build 
ing," Pris said. She had left the front door of the apartment 
standing open and she went in ahead of them. "Mrs. Perkins 
down on the floor below is some man s mistress a kept 
woman. You ought to see her, Joel, she s wonderful. All 
pink and white and cheap perfume, and I saw into her 


apartment once, it s just covered with little silk cushions." 

"You certainly are a nosey piece," Joel said. 

Elaine came down the long narrow hall to greet them. 
"Hello, darlings," she said. She kissed them too and took 
Joel s hat away from him. "Just leave it here, Joel," she said, 
putting it on the hall table. "Come on, Harriet, you can fix 
up in my room." 

Harriet followed her, catching a glimpse of Kit and Gray 
in the living room as they passed it, and waving to them. 
Elaine s room was at the far end of the hall which ran 
straight through the apartment. It looked a bit overfurnished 
because her bed and bureau were huge, relics of the old 
house. The bed was a four-poster with a white canopy 
above it. It was so high that there were little steps beside it. 
The bureau was a great chest with a high, heavy mirror. 
Besides these pieces, there were a chaise longue upholstered 
in chintz and several little tables and chairs. Harriet had 
seen Elaine s room only once in the old house before they 
had moved out of it and she had thought it lovely then, 
with its great, dignified furniture and its simplicity of col 
oring. Now the room in the apartment looked foolish and a 
little sad, like an old woman wearing a wig and rouge. 

Harriet laid her hat on the bed and smoothed her hair. 
Elaine had seated herself on the chaise longue, and was 
watching her with one hand curved gently across her lap 
and the other resting on the back of the couch. 

"I think you re gaining a little weight, Harriet," she said 
consideringly. "It s becoming." 

"Four pounds," Harriet said proudly. She looked at the 
new fullness in her throat and her cheeks and thought of 
how Joel liked it. 

Elaine got up slowly and came over to her to comb her 

52 September ipjS-February 

own hair. "I can t find a good hairdresser in this neighbor 
hood," she said. "You know, when you re my age you ve 
got to take more care of yourself. Pris and Kit can do their 
own hair and look all right, but I have to have a good fin 
ger-wave or I look hopeless. I miss Monsieur Henri. I never 
realized how nice he was until I left him. Goodness!" she 
sighed reminiscently. "He used to give me a little massage 
at the back of the neck when he was shampooing me. It was 
so lovely." 

Harriet sympathized. "I know," she said. "You get used 
to one person." Actually, she had never been to a hair 
dresser s. But she wanted to comfort Elaine, who was look 
ing so sadly at her lifeless grayish-blonde hair in the mirror. 
They finished powdering their noses and went down the 
hall together back to the living room. Kit and Gray greeted 
Harriet when she came in. The room looked untidy, as if 
they had been living in it all day. The Sunday paper was 
spread out on the floor and on the couch in various sec 
tions, and the ashtrays were full of stubs, some with lip- 
sticked ends. There was a coffee cup on the little table 
before the couch and its creamy dregs were unappetizing. 
Kit had on a scarlet housecoat, bound in around her 
waist with a great blue-green sash. Like Pris, she looked 
exotic and alien to the frowsy surroundings. The furniture 
for the living room was all too delicate, the light colors 
went badly against yellowish cream walls, and the curtains 
were too long for the windows and trailed along the floor 
on either side. There was a huge piano in one corner and 
it dwarfed the room. Their books had overflowed the book 
cases and were piled in the corner behind the piano. The 
desk had been opened and papers came out of its cubby 
holes and were left carelessly on top of it. 


Gray was in his shirtsleeves, reading the book-review 
section of the paper. The little table beside him was me 
ticulous, as if he had made a lone protest against the house 
keeping arrangements. His ashtray had been recently 
emptied and there was no overflow of ash beside it. The 
matches in their little paper folder were closed and the 
lamp stood in the exact center of the table. He got up for 
Harriet and folded his paper neatly in his hands. When she 
had spoken to him, he took it to the other side of the room 
and laid it with the other parts of the paper, gathering them 
together and stacking them neatly on the radiator. 

Elaine sat down on the couch beside Joel. "How s the 
job, darling?" she asked him absent-mindedly. 

"Splendid," Joel said. "Horatio Alger, Jr., they call me 
at the office. The boy who makes good." 

"What are you going to do about the boss s daughter?" 
Kit asked idly. "An old married man like you." 

"The fellow they had before me married her," Joel said. 
"He s retired." 

Pris, who was standing against the mantelpiece reading 
her letter, exclaimed suddenly, and their heads all turned 
to her. Facing them as if she were on a stage, she began to 
read the letter aloud without any preface to it. 

" 1 don t have to go on with college, 7 " she read. " I can 
quit now and look for a job, if you ll marry me. It may be 
hard going at first, but Fd like to take care of you, Pris. 
This is from Fulke," she added, looking up at them. "Isn t 
he sweet?" 

Elaine said excitedly, "Pris, darling! Are you going to 
get married?" 

"No," Pris said abstractedly, still reading the letter. "But 
it s nice of him." 

54 September 19 38 -February 1939: 

"Why not?" Joel asked. "I thought he was the big mo 
ment in your life." 

"Oh, no," Pris said. She finished the letter and folded 
it to put it back in its envelope again. "Not to marry," she 
said. "He s a nice boy, but he couldn t support me. We d 
starve to death, you know that, Joel. I m not practical 
enough to keep house for him on twenty-five dollars a 
week, or whatever he d make." 

"You re right, there," Kit said laughingly. "But it s too 
bad. I liked Fulke." 

"Who s Fulke?" Gray asked. 

"You remember him," Kit said in surprise. "Fulke White- 
head. He visited us in South Wales last summer. Don t you 
remember? He was there that last weekend before we came 
down to New York." 

"Oh, yes, long, skinny boy, wasn t he?" Gray said. "He 
was a nice fellow. Seemed intelligent." 

"Not necessarily a requisite for Pris," Joel said. 

Pris came over and pulled his nose and then sat beside 
him on the arm of the couch. "How about changing the 
subject," she said lightly. Harriet thought she saw a little 
tightening along her jaw line. "What do you want for 

"Don t you know what we re going to have?" Joel said 
in horror. 

"We have cans of everything," Pris said casually. 

They laughed. 

"Maybe I can help," Harriet said timidly. She could 
fix a dinner for them easily, but it seemed obnoxious to 
point it out. 

"No, ma am," Pris said emphatically. "You starve or eat 
my own food. I don t even let Elaine help. Not that she d 


do much. I ve got to learn sometime and it s good to have 
a whole family to practice on." 

"Good for everybody but the family," Joel said. "Let 
Harriet help you, Pris. She s a marvelous cook." 

"No," Pris said. "Don t be so selfish, Joel. Let the poor 
girl relax for one day." 

She got up, flipping her pajamaed legs into their natural 
folds, and smoothing back her hair. "Ill go and see what 
can be dug up," she said. "Don t talk about me while I m 

She went down the hall whistling, and Harriet smiled 
at the sound. "No kidding," Joel said to Kit. "Do you get 
enough to eat?" 

"Oh, yes," Kit said negligently. "We tease her a lot, 
but we manage. You can t go very wrong on canned goods, 
you know." 

Elaine said thoughtfully, "I don t know why I never 
learned to cook. I just never had to, I guess, and I wasn t 
much interested in it. It would be useful now. I don t like 
to have Pris doing all the work." 

"What about Kit?" Joel asked. 

Kit crossed her legs and looked down at her swinging 
foot. "I m out looking for a job every day," she said. "I m 
not at home much." 

"Any luck?" Joel asked her. 

"None," Kit said. "It s strange. You wouldn t think the 
world would let a girl of my caliber go unappreciated, 
would you?" 

"That s true, Kit," Elaine said. "I don t see why some 
body doesn t leap at the chance. You re so capable and 
intelligent. There aren t many girls like you." 

"Elaine," Kit said getting up. She went over and kissed 

56 September i^S-February 

her mother. "Trouble is, you don t have an employer s 
mentality. I know you d hire me." 
"Of course!" Elaine said. 

"I can t do anything for you at the moment," Joel told 
Kit. "But just wait until old Mr. MacCrae dies and I m 
running the office. Then I ll take you on." 

They continued to joke about it and Harriet listened to 
them with the little, continuous smile she always wore 
when she visited their home. Even though Kit had been 
looking for work for three months, there was no fear in 
any of them that she wouldn t find it. Their laughter was 
genuine, not to cloak uneasiness. Only Gray worried a bit; 
she could see that he was puzzled by their attitude. His 
gentle eyes went from one face to the other, and now and 
then he smiled hesitantly, as if he were not quite sure of 
the joke. 

Pris came back with a white apron tied around her waist 
and a large, dirty spoon in one hand. She told them what 
there was to eat. "Take your choice," she said. 
They discussed the menu without energy. 
"Sounds magnificent," Joel said ruefully, laughing at 
Harriet. She smiled back at him, still wishing that she could 
help Pris but afraid now to offer. 

"Meanwhile," Pris said, looking at Joel, "Gray will mix 
a cocktail and maybe that will stop your grousing." 

"In time you ll probably take to opium as cheaper and 
quicker," Joel said. "We can all sprawl out on the floor 
here and have a sniff." 

Pris stuck out her tongue at him. "Come on, Gray," she 
said. "The stuff is all in the kitchen." 

Gray took the trouble to smile apologetically at them 
while Pris left as abruptly as she had come in. Nobody paid 


any attention to him. Kit had picked up the newspaper and 
had read one of the headlines out loud and Elaine had 
started to complain about it. 

"What I don t understand," she said fretfully, "is why 
we have to go through all this awful business all over again. 
We did once but of course you children won t remem 
ber. Does anybody want to fight? I don t believe they do. 
Why do they talk about fighting, then?" 

"I believe you ve just said something very profound, 
Elaine," Gray told her. 

Kit laughed. "Don t scare her, Gray," she said. 

"No," Elaine said. "Don t tease me now. I may not be 
a good housewife, but I m older than all of you and I 
know what I m talking about." 

"Well," Kit said. "There isn t anybody to blame, Elaine. 
Except the Germans. Everybody else is trying to stay out 
of this in spite of every cost." 

Gray listened half smilingly, and Harriet found herself 
watching him. Kit and Elaine were like children when they 
talked politics. Everything became names to them. All Ger 
mans were this and that, all English were so and so, there 
were truths and lies, and good and bad. She kept herself 
out of such conversations because she was at a disadvantage 
in them. 

"That poor Mr. Chamberlain," Elaine said sadly. "He did 
everything he could, didn t he? I felt so sorry for him 
when he failed." 

Gray said, "That poor Mr. Chamberlain indeed. He 
nearly wrecked a whole nation." 

Elaine and Kit turned on him in horror. Their exclama 
tions came together and confusedly, and Gray put up his 
hands laughingly. 

58 September ipjS-February 1939: 

"Sony, sorry," he said. "I didn t know I was wounding 
your hero. 7 

"No, but Gray, you ve got to be human about this," Kit 
said. "You can t just stand on the sidelines and sneer. What 
would you have done in his place?" 

"I won t argue with you," Gray said. "I wouldn t have 
been in his place. Too much responsibility for me." 

"No, you can t back out that way," Kit said excitedly. 
"Don t you try it, Gray Beavers." Gray smiled sideways 
at Harriet. 

"Yes, what would you do, Gray?" Joel said. 
"One thing or the other," Gray told him. "I would 
either have been firm from the beginning, which Cham 
berlain wasn t because he was more afraid of Russia than 
he was of Germany; or I would have really tried to con 
ciliate. After all, a few airplane trips to Germany doesn t 
do the trick. If you re trying to pacify a fellow you offer 
him something, don t you?" 

"Would you want him to offer Hitler all of England?" 
Joel said heatedly. "Just sit back and hand it to him?" 

"I wasn t advising either course," Gray said non-com- 
mittally. "I simply think either one would have accom 
plished more." 

"You wouldn t have wanted him to fight, would you?" 
Kit asked incredulously. 

"I said I wasn t on one side or the other," Gray said 

"Fighting would have been better," Joel said fiercely. 
"If Chamberlain were a man he would have fought." 

"I don t seem to agree with anybody," Gray said, a lit 
tle pathetically. Harriet knew how he felt; he had been 
caught into the argument unintentionally and would have 


liked to stay out of it, yet he couldn t let Joel s statement 
go unchallenged. "It isn t a question of manhood, Joel. 
That s why I said I wouldn t take such a responsibility. Any 
statesman in Chamberlain s position has to be more than 
a man. There are no personal considerations in such a 

Harriet watched Joel leaning forward in his excitement. 
She supposed that any man, thinking or otherwise, felt 
militaristic in times like these. She herself didn t, and Gray 
didn t seem to. But then, Gray was superannuated by years 
of university, life. He was the perennial college boy, the 
Fulke of later years, and it was people like Joel who made 
up their country. People who could be fair and honest, who 
were often wise, but who had some bug of virility, some 
temper which could be aroused on occasion and which 
then threw off all the peaceful teachings on which they 
had been raised. 

She tried to imagine Joel going off to war, but she found 
only moving-picture images in her mind, the man in khaki, 
and the girl clinging to him at the quay, but the man in 
evitably coming back, and happiness at the end. She could 
not imagine what warfare would actually be like. She knew 
the words mud, horror, lice, panic, terrific noise, blood, 
bravery and cowardice, but none of them meant anything 
to her. 

How did Joel feel about war, she wondered. She had 
heard him exclaim against the Germans sometimes and he 
used violent, childish expressions when he was particularly 
troubled by something. She had often heard him wish that 
he had a good rifle and could take a potshot at Hitler, that 
would solve everything. But they had laughed at that. Now 
the way he was leaning forward was more alarming. Per- 

60 September ly^S-February 

haps that same bug had been aroused in him. She suspected 
that at that moment he itched to fight, and she was fright 
ened. Although he was silent in the face of Gray s speech, 
she could see from the stubborn position of his head that 
he wanted to express something else. Gray saw that too, 
and spoke to him again, breaking into the silence. 

"Anyway" he said, "nobody s omniscient, Joel. God 
knows what I would do." 

"I probably would want to fight," Joel said, still stub 
bornly. Harriet saw his face turn strange. She had never 
seen that line of tautness around his mouth or his eyes 
become so fixed. There was something very righteous and 
strong about his look, but it was frightening, because it 
was not Joel. 

Gray said rather abruptly, "Maybe I d feel differently 
if it were our country that was involved. Let s wait until 
that comes up before we discuss it any further." 

Joel smiled suddenly and Harriet felt relief to see his 
face change. She hadn t quite realized how depressed and 
intimidated she had been for a minute by his mood. Now 
he was the Joel she knew better, the Joel who laughed at 

"All right, Gray," he said, still smiling. "I didn t really 
know how to answer you, anyway." 

They laughed together and Harriet and Kit joined them. 

"Whew! " Kit said thankfully. "My husband! What made 
you ever marry me, anyway, Gray?" 

"Because you were so rich," Gray said calmly. "Fm 
thinking of an annulment at the moment, since I find you 
deceived me." 

"Oh, Gray," Kit said. "Don t talk like that." For a sec 
ond her face was as serious as Elaine s might have been, 


and then it changed back to its old mockery. "I ll take you 
up on that if you aren t careful," she told him. "At the 
time I thought you were a luxury I could afford, but I m 

not so sure now." 

Gray smiled. "Looks like we both got a bad bargain," 
he said. 

Elaine said timidly, "Don t you think somebody ought 
to set the table, children? Pris shouldn t be left to do all 
the work." 

"I ll do it," Kit said, getting up. She rolled up the long 
flowing sleeves of her housecoat and Harriet watched her, 
thinking that she hadn t learned yet to take care of her 
handsome clothes and that she would have to when they 
began to wear out. 

"I ll help," Joel said, getting up. Harriet started to get 
up too, but he pushed her down into her chair again. "You 
relax," he told her. "You heard what Pris said. Entertain 
Elaine, she looks bored." 

"No, darling," Elaine insisted. "I m not bored. I was 
just thinking about something else." 

"Oh," Joel said. "Well, come out of your coma, and 
talk to Harriet. We re going to set the table." 

"Remind me," Elaine said. "I have something to tell 
you all at dinner. I had forgotten all about it." 

"The last time you told us something at mealtime, it was 
pretty bad," Joel said. "You frighten me." 

Elaine laughed. "I think this is good," she said. "Go on, 
help Kit, Joel. She ll be finished before you get out there." 

Gray stood up to offer Elaine and Harriet cigarettes, 
which they both took. He lit them and one of his own 
before he sat down again. "Sorry to embroil your family 

62 September ly^S-February 

in argument, Elaine," he said leisurely, putting the match 
in the ashtray. 

"Oh, that s all right, Gray dear," Elaine said. "I like to 
hear you all argue. As long as you don t get to fighting. 
Don t you, Harriet?" 

Harriet smiled at her, because Elaine was trying to draw 
her into her own womanly world where politics were left 
to the men. She tried to step into that world to please her. 
"They re very good-natured," she said maternally. Evi 
dently her effort was successful, because Elaine smiled, 
and the remark was let pass as an ordinary one. They went 
on to talk about Harriet s apartment. 

"Have you finished that little hooked rug you re mak 
ing?" Elaine asked. 

"Not quite yet," Harriet said. "The wool s getting so 
expensive I can t buy it as fast as I work it." 

They discussed her decorating plans, which went only 
as she could afford them. Elaine was always interested in 
this and Harriet liked to have her advice about it, because 
she had a nice sense of color and form. If some of her more 
extravagant ideas could be disregarded they got along very 
well on the subject. 

They were quite absorbed when Pris came into the living 
room. "Kit and Joel say you have something to tell us, 
Elaine," she said. "What is it?" 

"Oh," Elaine said. "I thought I d wait until we were all 

"Come on, Elaine," Pris said coaxingly. "Don t be mys 
terious. Tell us now. Kit and Joel!" 

They came up behind her from the dining room. "The 
forks go on the left side, you poor goop," Kit was saying to 


Joel, and he had his elbow up before his face in self -protec 

"Listen," Pris said. "Elaine is going to tell us the news/ 

"What news?" Kit said. "Oh, yes, what is it, Elaine?" 

"Well, you make it sound so dramatic now," Elaine said. 
She looked up at all of them standing around her. "It s 
about the house." 

"You mean they want to give it back?" Joel asked her 

"What do you mean?" Elaine said. "Oh, no, I mean the 
South Wales house. Mr. Graham s found a man who wants 
to buy it." 

"Tell me, girls," Joel said. "What do you honestly think? 
Is Mr. Graham helping us, or making a profit off of us? 
What is this, Elaine? 

"Oh, Elaine, you re not going to sell the South Wales 
house!" Pris said. 

"Well, we don t have to if we don t want to," Elaine 
told them. "It doesn t cost much to keep up. The taxes 
aren t big, that is, and there s no mortgage on it. But with 
out servants we can t run it the way we used to, and any 
way, we don t seem to have any other money. We can 
sell the house and that will give us quite a bit to live on 
until all of you can find jobs." 

"You mean we don t have anything beside that?" Joel 
asked her. 

"Very little," Elaine said, shrugging her shoulders. 

"But where does it all go?" Joel asked her. "Graham said 
that if we economized" 

Nobody answered him. Harriet, remembering how they 
had taken the first piece of bad news, watched their faces. 
This was harder, she could see, and no wonder; it was the 

64 September ig^S-Febmary 

last stage instead of the first. She hated it, it wasn t fair 
that people like the Randolfs should have to worry and 
think about money. 

Kit finally laughed and sat down on the arm of Gray s 
chair. The sound was good. "Well," she said. "At last we re 
going to see how the other half lives, aren t we?" 

Gray sitting beside her put his hand on hers and she 

looked at him affectionately, but without any plea for pity. 

Joel said thoughtfully, "With all of us working we 

wouldn t be able to use the house so much, anyway, would 


"No," Pris said. "I suppose it ll be all right to sell it. I 
was just surprised, that s all." 

Harriet thought they were marvelous. Behind their child 
ishness and inefficiency, they had real strength, she thought. 
They took the news so gallantly. 

Elaine said, "Is that your decision? To let it go? I have 
to tell Mr. Graham tomorrow. I m sorry I forgot to tell 
you about it until now." 

"No sense in thinking about it any longer, is there?" 
Joel said. "If we ve got to, we ve got to." 

"And after that we ll be rich," Elaine said. "It will be 
kind of nice, won t it?" 

"You bet," Kit said. "A forgotten feeling. Now I can 

buy that green wool dress at Saks that I ve been wanting 

so long. I really think selling the house is the only thing." 

"Are we going to sell the cars and the horses too?" Pris 

asked Elaine. 

"We might as well, Mr. Graham says," Elaine told her. 
"We would have no use for them down here, and they re 
expensive to keep in New York." 


"Well, then," Pris said. "We ll be richer still. Maybe I 
can afford to support Fulke after all." 

The others laughed with her, but Harriet was made alert 
by her remark and watched her after the laughter died 
down and the conversation went on. It was hard to know 
Pris and what her childish face concealed. Sometimes Har 
riet had suspected that she was not very sensitive, but she 
seemed to be thinking about Fulke quite a lot, and in spite 
of her jokes, perhaps she was fond of him. Harriet won 
dered why Pris didn t go ahead and marry him. She was 
foolish if she thought that poverty would make it impos 
sible. The difficulty was that Pris had such grand ideas for 
a future, she couldn t believe, as none of them could be 
lieve, that they were the sort who would lead ordinary 
lives. She felt that so sincerely that she was letting this 
faith make her miserable. 

Pris saw Harriet s stare and smiled. The long lines of 
her jaw bone and the depth under her eyes disappeared 
and her round cheeks filled and her nose wrinkled. 

"What s the matter, have I got a speck on my face or 
something?" she asked, still smiling. 

Harriet shook her head, returning the smile. "No," she 
said. On the other hand she might not be miserable at 
all. You couldn t really tell about Pris. 


Kit called Harriet up one day and asked her to lunch. 
It was February now, a wet and tired February, and Har 
riet and Joel had gone through Christmas together and 
New Year s, the strange first celebrations in a new family. 

Harriet joined Kit in the "Blue Boar," a restaurant she 
suggested in a basement on Ninth Street, dark and with 

66 September 1938 -February 

tilting, wide-boarded floors. They sat together, silently 
holding their menus up so that the colored waitress could 
wipe the table. 

Harriet had a little cold and she was tired. Her feet felt 
stuffy under the table in their galoshes. She put her coat 
back from her so that its dampness would not touch her. 
Kit looked handsome in a twisted blue turban and heavy 
tweeds. Harriet wondered what made a woman look in 
fallibly lovely. Surely Kit must have colds too, or chose 
the wrong clothes sometimes. There must be days when 
her hair was not glossy and some of its wave was out. She 
must have pimples sometimes. Everybody did, didn t they? 
Or be tired and have circles under her eyes. 

"Have a cocktail first," Kit urged. 

"Oh, no, thanks," Harriet said. "They make me so 
sleepy afterwards." 

"This is a special celebration, though," Kit said. "Have 

it on me." 

"All right, then," Harriet said. 

"Two Daiquiris," Kit said to the waitress. "What else 
are you going to have, Harriet?" 

"The mixed grill, I think," Harriet said, looking at the 
menu in its celluoid cover, faintly spotted with grease and 
thumb marks. 

"I ll have that too," Kit said to the waitress. "But bring 
the Daiquiris first, will you?" 

She, by some trick which Harriet could not analyze, had 
become friends with the waitress in those few sentences. 
The girl smiled at them sympathetically and nodded at 
Kit. "I ll bring them right along," she said. 

Eat returned her snule but not attentively. Not as Har 
riet did, forced and embarrassed. Perhaps Kit got the girl s 


liking because she was so effortless. Harriet was self-con 
scious and the girl could sense it. 

The waitress put their Daiquiris down in front of them, 
spilling Kit s a little and gasping an apology. They waited 
until she had cleaned it up before they began to talk. Har 
riet sipped her drink, feeling its warmth penetrate imme 
diately, and glad now that she had accepted it. 

"I ve got a job," Kit said dramatically. 

"No! Kit!" Harriet said delightedly. "I m so glad! What 
kind of a job?" 

"At Considine s," Kit told her. "As a salesgirl. To begin 

"How did you ever get it, without any experience or 
anything?" Harriet said. 

Kit laughed. "It s a sort of funny story," she told Har 

Harriet waited anxiously while Kit interrupted herself 
to take a drink. 

"I was very nervy," Kit said. There was no apology in 
her voice, only a sort of laughing pride. "I didn t go to the 
personnel department. I ve tried that all over the place 
Macy s, Best s, Lord & Taylor s, Altaian s, everywhere. 
They just took my name and said they d let me know. So 
I decided I d do things differently at Considine s. We have 
a charge account there, you know." 

"What d you do?" Harriet asked. People as sure as Kit 
were strange to her; she could not guess how they would 
act. She felt, as she listened to her talk, that she was read 
ing a novel. The people she had always known had neither 
boldness nor brilliance. They acted on carefully thought- 
out lines and planned their lives far ahead. Because they 
relied on thought rather than instinct, they were slow in 

68 September i$$8-February 

making decisions. They didn t trust their impulses as Kit 
did. It made them very predictable and perhaps, Harriet 
thought, rather dull. How much more exciting it must be 
to have an idea suddenly, to walk into a department store 
and get a job, just like that. There was no possibility of 
things like that happening to the people she had known. 

"I went to the Misses dress department," Kit told her, 
"and told one of the salesgirls that I had a complaint to 
make to the manager. She tried to steer me off to a floor 
walker, but I insisted, and finally they took me into the 
manager s office." She chuckled thinking about it. "They 
were all scared stiff probably thought they were going to 
lose their jobs or something. Even the manager was wor 
ried. You could tell, because he was so polite and jumpy. 
He kept offering me cigarettes and matches and things." 

"What did you have to complain about?" Harriet asked 

"The service in general/ Kit said. She took another sip 
of her drink, finishing it this time. "Let s have another," 
she said to Harriet. "I really have to celebrate." 

Harriet nodded, impatient of the interruption, and Kit 
held up a finger, getting the waitress quickly. "Stall off the 
mixed grill a little longer, will you?" she said to the girl. 
"And get us another round of these." 

The girl giggled and agreed. Harriet watched her thin, 
brown hands, which, although young, had stiff creases in 
them, take up the glasses and mop the table under them. 
She had in her mind a visual picture of Kit sitting in the 
manager s office. She would have been wearing her short 
skunk jacket, Harriet thought, and she would be leaning 
back in her chair, casually, one hand flicking the ashes 
from her cigarette. Probably on the rug. The manager, a 


faceless person in a double-breasted suit, would be stand 
ing before his desk, bending over her solicitously. Bent 
from the waist like a little doll. 

Kit went on. "You know Considine s," she said. "All 
those snotty girls. Standing around and talking,- coming up 
to you slowly with one hand fixing their hair, raising their 
eyebrows when you ask for something, looking as if they 
didn t give a darn whether they made a sale or not." 

"I know," Harriet nodded. 

"Of course I outsnot them," Kit said grinning. "But 
they do scare off people; I ve heard them say so." 

"They scare me," Harriet said. 

"That s it," Kit said. "They scare anybody who s the 
least bit shy or timid. 

"Well, I told this manager, Mr. Devereux, his name was, 
of all things, about them. I said, Mr. Devereux, your store 
carries some of the smartest and the best clothes in town. 
But your selling methods are among the most antiquated! " 
She smiled. The waitress set their fresh drinks before them 
and Kit picked hers up instantly. "Pretty good line, that," 
she said, nodding to herself. "It worked too." 

"What did he say?" Harriet asked her. 

"Oh, he was all apologies," Kit said. "You see, he still 
thought I was just a customer. He asked me what I would 

"Did you have anything to suggest?" Harriet asked her. 

"Ummm," Kit said. "I sounded very authoritative. You 
know, I sounded as if I had taken a course in mercantilism, 
or whatever you would call it. Mr. Devereux, I told him, 
"most of the modern stores are hiring young women who 
are courteous, well bred, and who treat the customers as 
if they had a right to be in the store. The college-girl type, 

jo September ic^S-February 1939: 

if you know what I mean. What s more, it s been a very 
successful move. I m really amazed that Considine s has 
done nothing about it. " 

"You sound impressive," Harriet said. Her drinks had 
warmed and loosened her, and she giggled now like a lit 
tle girl. 

"He said, But, Mrs. Beavers, these employees of ours 
have been with us a long time, we can t fire them all in 
a bunch because of a change in policy. " 

Harriet nodded. "I was wondering about that," she told 
Kit. She knew the ending of the story already, because Kit 
had told her, but it was as fascinating working around to 
it as if it were still a surprise. 

"Oh, sure," Kit said carelessly. "Well, to tell the truth, 
I hadn t thought about that, but I had a bright idea, and 
I think probably a better one than if I d tried to get them 
to change things entirely. I acted very matter-of-fact. I 
said, Naturally, that couldn t be expected, Mr. Devereux. 
But I would like to make a suggestion. He said What? 
and I said, Change your policy and institute a training 
course for the employees you already have. In addition, 
hire one or two girls to be scattered throughout the store 
who are the type you want. To be a sort of example to 
the others. If their type of selling results in more commis 
sionswhich I m sure it will the old girls will be more 
impressed than by anything you can say to them. " 
"That s good!" Harriet said. "That s terribly good, Kit." 
"I think so," Kit said. She lowered her eyelids with mock 
modesty, the eyelashes making a dark curve for a second. 
"Well then, after that it was easy, although I thought the 
hardest part was yet to come. He liked the idea, it was 
obvious, and he kept repeating it to himself and nodding 


his head. After a few seconds to let it sink in, I said, If you 
decide to do something like that, Mr. Devereux, I wish 
you would consider hiring me. I want a job very badly, and 
I think I m the type you want. He was flabbergasted! Hon 
estly, Harriet, I wish you could have seen his face. He was 
like a vaudeville comic. His mouth dropped open and his 
eyebrows went up. It was too funny. I felt a little nervous, 
and then all of a sudden he started laughing." 

"Laughing?" Harriet said. She could not have predicted 
this reaction. 

"He howled!" Kit said emphatically. "So I began laugh 
ing too. It really was funny, Harriet, you know. Here I 
was the wealthy customer, making a valuable suggestion, 
apparently with perfect disinterest. He had considered it 
just because of that. If he had known I was looking for a 
job, he would never have let down his defenses that way. 
I really had caught him with his pants down, if you ll par 
don the vulgarity. There wasn t anything he could do. 
That s what he said. He told me that anybody with such 
unmitigated crust as I had ought to do a good job, and 
that he d hire me. Just like that. I start work on Monday. 
And he s going to follow my other suggestions too. He 
was a pretty nice man, now I come to think of it. He saw 
his situation so quickly and gave in to it so gracefully." 

The waitress took away their empty glasses and laid the 
mixed grills before them. Harriet was stimulated enough 
to be hungry and she picked up her fork, still laughing a 
little at Kit s story. 

She wondered, though, as they ate in silence for a few 
moments, if Kit knew what sort of job it was that she was 
getting. A salesgirl That would be pretty tiring. Standing 
on your feet all day, having to be courteous to people, 

72 September i ^S-February 

whether you liked them or not, having to be lively no mat 
ter how you felt. It wasn t Kit s training and it would be 
harder for her than for most girls. She said hesitantly, be 
cause she didn t want to spoil Kit s enthusiasm, "Is that 
what you really want to be, Kit? A salesgirl?" 

"Not on your life!" Kit said scornfully. "But I do want 
to do department-store work. Assistant buyer, buyer, some 
thing like that." She continued to eat perfectly casually and 
Harriet admired her. 

"You re quite confident, aren t you?" Harriet said. 
Kit put down her fork and leaned forward a little bit. 
"Yes," she said. "I am. You know why, Harriet?" 

Harriet shook her head, waiting silently for what Kit 
was going to say. 

"It s because I learned a trick today," Kit said. "And 
I m going to use it for all it s worth. When I first started 
looking for work, I thought of myself as going into a per 
fectly strange world. I thought if I was going to succeed in 
that world I d have to act according to its rules. I went 
around like a sheep, applying at the personnel bureaus, 
being meek and quiet, not myself at all. Then I had an 
inspiration today, and I got myself a job. Just like that. 
Because I acted like myself. I should have realized that 
earlier. I ve always been successful with the people and 
the things I ve dealt with in my other life. Why should I 
change my tactics just because I was trying something dif 
ferent? After all, your own personality is the only one you 
can have. A false one is just a negative one; it couldn t 
possibly impress anybody. Well, I see all that now, and 
from now on I m going to go on being myself. I m going 
to be fresh, I m going to be frank, I m going to be friendly. 
Fm not going to agree with anybody unless I really do, 


and if I have any suggestions about how things should be 
run, I m going to make them. And I m perfectly confident 
that I ll succeed if I stick to that line. How could it fail? 
I ve never failed in private life by acting that way, why 
should I fail in my job?" 

She lit a cigarette, with most of her food still on her 
plate, and threw the burnt match into it. Harriet sensed 
her tenseness, born of the excitement and the drinks, and 
sympathized with her lack of appetite. She laid her own 
fork down, and took a sip of water. 

"Let s have some coffee," Kit said. "That s what I need." 
She called the waitress and ordered it, saying something 
laughingly about the left-over food in her plate. The wait 
ress cleared away swiftly, as if she understood that she 
must not interrupt Kit s high arc of feeling. 

They were silent for a moment, Harriet relaxed after 
the strain of anticipating, and Kit thinking about something, 
stubbing her cigarette in the ashtray endlessly long after 
the coal had gone out. 

Harriet felt she must say something more. She and Kit 
were friendly, but they didn t know each other well enough 
to leave things unsaid. "It will be good for Gray," Harriet 
said. "Now he can go on studying." 

"Yes," Kit said quickly. Her expression changed, not 
to softness, but to consideration. She put one eyebrow up, 
unconsciously. "It will be good for him," she said. She took 
another cigarette out of her case and lit it. Afterwards she 
remembered Harriet and offered her the case. Harriet shook 
her head. 

"I don t know what else Gray will ever do," Kit said 
thoughtfully. "After he leaves the University. It isn t that 
he s lazy, you know, but he s timid. Sometimes I think he s 

74 September ly^S-February 1939: 

like you, Harriet, only I don t think you re as afraid of the 
world as he is. Or at least you go ahead and face it." 

"We re not much alike," Harriet murmured. "Except 
that we re both of us different from you Randolfs." 

"It s more than that," Kit said impatiently. "If you were 
both men, I think you d be just alike. But you re a woman 
and you are less shocked by the world, so you re a little 
less afraid of it. At least that s the way I figure it." 

"I m really not afraid of things I mean, of life," Harriet 
said defensively. She wanted Kit to understand how she 
felt, but there was a limitation, she knew. Not in Kit, but 
in Kit s experience. "I just think about it a lot," she said. 
"I worry about things, and I try to plan them out. I m not 
afraid, I just feel that I have a responsibility for myself 
and my family." 

Kit said carelessly, "Perhaps that s it." She dropped the 
subject after that, but Harriet was grateful for the small 
interest. None of the other Randolfs, not even Joel, both 
ered to try to explain her personality to themselves. They 
thought of her as different, and in Joel s case he thought 
the difference was charming, but they made no atttempt 
to analyze her. Kit showed that interest every now and 
then. Her mind was more active than Elaine s or Pris s. She 
ventured into more speculations than they. Sometimes she 
seemed less intelligent, because she was trying to cover 
wider ground. The quality made her perhaps more sym 
pathetic to Harriet, because she could understand her more 
easily. But apart from that, Harriet was no fonder of her 
than the others, whether she understood them or not. They 
were all of them strange to her, but she was caught by 
them. They made her feel, as Joel had one night, that she 
could drop her own worries and float with them. Their 


single-mindedness was hypnotic, it could carry her along 

"Anyway/ 7 Kit said, "Gray and I are fixed now. We re 
going to take a separate apartment, I think. Mother can 
lend us the money for a while until I m earning a bit more." 

Harriet was struck in the middle of her gently admiring 
thoughts. She opened her mouth stupidly for a second be 
fore she could speak. 

"You re moving out!" she said. "But there s all that huge 
apartment. What are Elaine and Pris going to do there?" 

"They can use the room," Kit said carelessly. 

"But, Kit," Harriet said. "It s so expensive. Elaine will 
be maintaining two homes instead of one. Why don t you 
wait until you re earning more money yourself?" 

"No," Kit said. She put out her cigarette in the saucer of 
her cup, disregarding the ashtray. Her face looked grim 
and silent for a moment, and then she looked up at Har 
riet and smiled. Harriet had hung on her somberness, de 
pressed by it, and now she was so relieved to see it change 
that she forgot her other distress for a moment. 

"It s foolish of me," Kit told her. "But I want my own 
home. I think Gray does too. I want to furnish it myself 
and run it myself. I want the things around me to be mine." 

"You ve always lived with your mother before this," 
Harriet reminded her. 

"I know it," Eat said. "I ve changed, though, Harriet. 
Just the feeling of earning my own money has changed 
me. I want to be independent all the way through. Can you 
understand that?" 

"Yes," Harriet said slowly. She was held back by some 
thing that she found difficult to explain. "It s a normal re 
action, and with anybody else I d understand perfectly. 

76 September i^S-February 1939: 

But it seems to me that your family has an unusual solidar 
ity. I don t know, I don t know much about family life, 
but I ve never seen people who were as close to each other 
as you are. I hate to see it broken up, because Fm afraid 
it ll hurt all of you. I think that the others are as important 
to you as you are to them, Kit. Fm afraid that losing them 
will be bad for you, too. ?> 

"It won t be broken up any more than it was before the 
debacle," Eat said smilingly. "Gray and I had a separate 
apartment then, and we had things our own way. Even if 
it was in the same house. I don t think we ll see any less 
of Elaine and Pris than we did before." 

"I suppose that s possible," Harriet said reluctantly. 

"Listen, fuss-budget," Kit said, laughing at her. "Don t 
wet-blanket me now. Fm in a mood where I can t be 
stopped. Say you think it s wonderful." 

"All right," Harriet said. The muscles of her face felt 
weak as she grinned. "It s wonderful." 

"You ll see," Kit said. "Even if I haven t converted you 
now. You ll see." 


June 1959 

.ARRIET S little kitchen made a warm wall 
around her. She thought, perhaps there s something petty 
about me that makes me like small rooms. When she had 
been a little girl she had had a recurrent nightmare about 
space. She had had it again the other night and woke up 
screaming to find herself lying against Joel s chest, his 
troubled face above her, his eyes dark in the night. It had 
been about a little man and a little woman who floated on 
a little platform through infinity, sometimes bobbing ter- 
rifyingly near her. It had been the infinity that was fright 
ening, although the little man and woman were ominous 
too, in their woodenness. They were like dolls, those two, 
and their faces were painted on. 

She thought, the dream has some connection with fear, 
I don t know what it is. I used to be afraid of school and 
of strange people when I was a little girl, that s why I had 
it then. But why do I have it now? Perhaps I m afraid 
again, but I don t really know. There are a lot of little 
things that worry me. I wish, for instance, I knew what was 
wrong with Joel these days; there s something on his mind 
that he doesn t tell me, and I don t dare ask. 

And Kit had been worrying her too. She seemed to be 
the same person, but she was different because she was 
hurting people. She hurt Elaine when she moved away. 
And now she wasn t coming to Sunday dinner, the first 
time that ever happened. Harriet had asked Pris and Elaine 
to her apartment for a change, hoping to distract them that 


8o une *939 : 

way. But she remembered Elaine s voice over the telephone 
and the bewilderment in it. I am a little afraid about Kit, 
she thought. 

She finished the beans which she was stripping, and 
scraped them from their neat pile into a dish, setting them 
aside. The onions must be fixed now, and she reached down 
under the table to get them out of their paper bag. It was 
hot in the kitchen. She brought her wrist up against her 
forehead to wipe away some perspiration. It made her 
realize that here it was June again and she and Joel had 
been married nearly a year. 

She smiled a little to herself, thinking about it. They 
knew all about each other now. You have to go through 
a whole year before you really know a person. You have 
to learn all the things they like in the different seasons, 
their tastes in food, in sports, in clothes and in amusement. 
She had discovered that Joel liked oysters and liked as 
paragus but that he hated strawberries. She had found out 
that he liked plain-colored dresses rather than prints. She 
had gone bowling with him and to football games and to 
baseball games, and this summer they would go to the 
tennis matches. Some things, too, which they had shared 
had become more delightful than they had ever been. 
Spending the last money in their pockets on the first daf 
fodils, for instance, or eating outdoors in a sidewalk restau 
rant, or coming home in the winter evenings with a bag 
of hot chestnuts held in their ungloved hands so that they 
could enjoy the warmth. Those things would become more 
exciting every year because they would remember the other 
times they had done them together. Most of the things they 
did from now on would be repetition. 

She moved over to the sink to peel the onions under the 


faucet. Mr. and Mrs. Joel Randolf, a couple of long stand 
ing, she thought with satisfaction. 

The doorbell rang and she heard Joel moving in the liv 
ing room to answer it. She laid down her paring knife and 
went out to see who it was. 

Elaine and Pris came in and there was the noise of 
laughter and chatter. Harriet kissed them smilingly and 
took Elaine s hat from her. Pris was carrying hers and she 
laid it on a table. 

"You know, it s very cool in here," Elaine said, looking 
around her. "Much cooler than our place, isn t it, Pris?" 

"Anything s cooler than our place," Pris said. She was 
sulky, which made Harriet realize that she had never seen 
her anything but good-natured. And yet the sulkiness didn t 
seem out of place. Perhaps it was because she had such a 
babyish face, Harriet thought. 

Elaine moved over to the couch and sat down, smooth 
ing her dress around her. She looked pretty and expensive 
in her silk Liberty print. But someone had taken up the 
hem of it for her, probably Pris, and had not pressed it, so 
that it hung baggily about her knees. Elaine patted the 
couch beside her. "Come over here, Joel," she said. "I have 
to talk to you." 

"Will you excuse me?" Harriet said slowly. She was al 
most reluctant to leave them; she had seen an unwilling 
look come on Joel s face, and she wondered what they had 
to talk about. "I have to go on with the dinner," she said. 

"Of course, dear," Elaine told her graciously. "Pris, you 
go along with Harriet. Perhaps you can help her." 

Pris looked annoyed and Harriet spoke quickly. "Come 
on, Pris," she said. "And keep me company, anyway. You ll 

82 June 

have to sit on the kitchen table; there isn t room enough 
for two people to stand." 

"That s all right," Pris said. She didn t respond to Har 
riet even with a smile. 

Harriet heard Elaine say to Joel, who had sprawled be 
side her on the couch, "Joel, dear, what s this about Amer 
ican Tinware?" 

She didn t hear Joel s answer. Pris was hoisting herself 
onto the table, and she had kicked her heels against the 
leg,, drowning out whatever Joel said. 

Harriet turned on the water again and began to peel her 

" What s the idea of doing that under water?" Pris said. 
"Is that a labor-saving device or something? To peel them 
and wash them at the same time?" 

Harriet laughed. "No, it s so I won t cry," she said. "It 
keeps your eyes from smarting." 

"Oh, really?" Pris said. "The world s full of tricks, isn t 

Harriet nodded smilingly. 
"Anything I can do to help?" Pris said. 
"No, thanks," Harriet said. "There isn t much to do 
and you deserve a rest today." 

Pris leaned back against the wall. Her plump, shapely 
legs hung over the edge of the table, and Harriet, looking 
sideways at her, saw that she had a run in one stocking. 

"Do you know you ve got a run?" she told her timidly. 
Sometimes people resented being told. 

Pris looked down at her leg carelessly. "Um," she said 
nodding. "But it s my last pair." 

"Let me lend you a pair of mine," Harriet said. She put 
down her knife and turned off the water. Without its noise 


she could hear clearly what Joel was saying to Elaine in 
the other room. Distracted by it, she hardly noticed Pris s 
gesture of refusal. 

"H-Honest to God, Elaine, I m so damned sorry I 
don t know what to do," she had heard Joel say, and then 
Elaine s voice, usually so gentle, answered him sharply. 
"You re sorry, Joel!" 

She turned on the water again with a quick, twisting 
gesture of her wrist, feeling shocked. She had a strange 
reluctance to hear any more. They had sounded so naked, 
and unhappy. She was afraid to know what it was about. 

Pris evidently had heard nothing; she had bent her blonde 
head to the stocking and was licking her finger and damp 
ening the end of the run. "Maybe that ll hold it," she told 
Harriet. She wriggled back against the wall and leaned her 
head against it. 

"You re good at this sort of thing, aren t you, Harriet?" 
she asked. 

Harriet was too absorbed to be embarrassed. "Fve always 
done it," she said absently. "That s all." 

"I suppose so," Pris said, sighing. "Gee, it bores me 

That caught Harriet s attention. She looked up at Pris 
quickly. "I didn t know that, Pris," she said. "I thought 
you enjoyed keeping house." 

"It was kind of fun at first," Pris said frankly. "But it s 
beginning to get me down." 

Harriet was vaguely troubled. "It comes hard to you 
still," she said. "But when it gets easier you ll like it again," 

"No, I won t," Pris said definitely, "I don t like routine. 
I m sick of it." 

Harriet forgot her again for a moment. She had finished 

84 June 

peeling the onions and automatically put her hand up to 
the faucet to turn it off. But now she hesitated, worried 
about Joel and Elaine out there in the living room. Had 
they finished, she wondered? Abruptly, she turned the 
faucet off. Their voices had lowered, however, and she 
couldn t hear what they were talking about. She moved 
to the stove and opened the oven door to look at her 
chicken. It was still pale, with its legs crossed as if in prayer. 
In the room beyond she saw Elaine and Joel, Joel with his 
head turned away and Elaine leaning towards him. Some 
thing about her tight hands and anxious face looked wrong 
in one so gentle and protected. The fighting instinct was 
not becoming to Elaine; she looked taut and brittle, like 
porcelain under a strain. 

Harriet banged the door shut and turned back to Pris, 
who had crossed her legs again and was watching her curi 

That was right, Harriet thought, Pris had been saying 
something. With an effort she remembered what it was. 
"Perhaps you ought to try to get a job," she said. "You 
might like that better. Then you could afford to hire a 

"A job would be the same thing," Pris said. "Routine. I 
can t stand doing the same thing day after day. I would 
die if I always knew what was going to happen when I 
woke up in the morning." 

"Some jobs are not routine," Harriet said. "There are 
exciting jobs." 

"Not the kind I could get," Pris said, with a little twist 
of her mouth, full of scorn at herself. 

Harriet looked at her with concern. She had always felt 
uncertain about Pris. She looked so sturdy and calm, and 


actually she was the most highly strung of the lot. "Have 
you heard from Fulke lately?" she asked irrationally, as 
the result of a new thought. Perhaps marriage was what 
Pris needed. 

"I stopped writing to him," Pris told her defiantly, ac 
cepting Harriet s meaning. She kept her face down for a 
long moment and then looked up suddenly, her eyes 
brightly blue in her round face. "It was no use," she said. 

Harriet nodded with her forehead wrinkled. She had 
started to say something again, when Elaine s voice sud 
denly rose and she heard her say, "But Joel, what am I 
going to do? What can I do?" 

Joel s answer was still low and indistinct. Pris had heard 
too, this time, and she and Harriet looked at each other. 
Then Harriet heard the water for the vegetables begin to 
boil and she moved to put them in their pots. In the action 
they lost their shared thought and Pris evidently forgot 
about it. 

"You re thinking I ought to have married him, aren t 
you?" she asked Harriet. 

"What?" Harriet said, bewildered. "Oh." She forced her 
mind back to Pris s problems. "I don t know, Pris," she 
said slowly. "Depends on whether you were fond of him." 

"I guess not," Pris answered. "I don t know, really. I m 
not sure I know what it is to be in love." 

Harriet smiled. "I wish I could tell you," she said. 

"Well, how do you feel about Joel?" Pris asked her. 

She was too honest in her curiosity to make Harriet feel 
resentful or embarrassed. 

"Golly, Pris," she said. "I don t think I know how to 
express it. It s hard, anyway, because you and I are so dif 
ferent. You see, I spent most of my time with older peo- 

86 June 

pie older and more fussy my father was kind of a fussy 
man, and he was too absorbed in his work to pay any at 
tention to me. So that when I met Joel, I thought he was 
more exciting than anything I ve ever known. He was 
like a different animal, if you know what I mean. I didn t 
know that people could be strong and sure of themselves 
except in books. And I had never known what it was like 
to have somebody take care of me. I ve always had to 
take care of other people. I took care of my father and of 
the boys who used to come to see him and of myself. And 
then Joel wanted to take care of me. You wouldn t know 
what it was like, you see, because you haven t had the same 
background. To have somebody else take over all your 

"Is that being in love?" Pris asked curiously. 

Harriet thought back on what she had said and laughed. 
"No," she said. "Not exactly. For one thing, there s the 
physical side of it. I didn t say anything about that. And 
then well, what I meant was that love is respect and ad 
miration. I was really trying to explain why I respect Joel. 
Maybe I didn t do a good job of it." 

"I don t think I respect Fulke," Pris said. "I think that s 
the trouble." She nodded her head, as if she had solved 
something for herself. 

She was too abstracted to hear Joel and Elaine in the 
living room. But Harriet, whose mind was like a windmill, 
caught what they were saying immediately. Joel s voice 
had risen slightly. He was almost whispering, but it was 
with so much intensity that it carried. 

"Damn it, Elaine," he said. "It s not my fault. It could 
happen to anybody. I told you how sorry I was." 

Harriet s hands trembled and she felt a need to keep her 


lips tight. What had Joel done? Was this the reason he had 
been so abstracted lately? Was this what she had sensed 
that had frightened her? 

Pris said, "What I need is to marry a rich man." She was 
only following her line of thought, but it was maddening 
to Harriet to be swung back so constantly from one dis 
traction to the other. She saw that Pris was laughing, and 
laughed with her, not sure whether or not she was serious. 
"I guess you do," she said. 

She felt guilty; she was dividing her attention and she 
didn t want Pris to notice it. 

I m going to interrupt them, she thought suddenly; I 
think Joel needs help. 

She said out loud to Pris, "I guess I d better set the table," 
and started taking knives and forks out of the drawer. 

"I ll do it," Pris said. She slipped down easily. "I think 
I know where everything is." 

Harriet heard the voices in the living room stop as Pris 
went in. She was fiercely glad that she had stopped them. 
She went to the door herself and spoke to Elaine so that she 
could let them know that the conversation was permanently 

"Dinner s nearly ready," she told her. "Do you want to 
wash up or anything?" 

Elaine glanced absently down at her hands, but Harriet 
was watching Joel. She saw him look up at her gratefully. 
His mouth was tense, and when he smiled at her it quivered 
a little bit. Oh, Joel, she thought. What have you done? 

She tried to make them solid and friendly again, and 
spoke cheerfully, as if she were not aware that anything 
had happened. "Are you all hungry?" she asked them. 

Joel responded quickly, and Elaine s face relaxed. The 

88 June 1939: 

tight little muscles in her neck loosened and her color began 
to die down a bit. She smiled. "Yes, I am," she said. "I 
didn t realize it." 

Now only Pris, moving gloomily between the dining 
room and the kitchenette, was still unresponsive. Harriet 
looked thoughtfully after her, wondering how she could 
draw her in too. But it wasn t necessary; on the last trip 
she was smiling, and Harriet saw that she had finally sof 

"Everything ready?" she asked her, and Pris nodded, still 

"I ll dish out then," Harriet told her. 

She heard the murmur of their voices behind her, and 
because it was gentle and of a placid rhythm, she paid no 
attention to what they were saying. She took down the 
dish-holders so that she could get the chicken out of the 
oven. This had been a strange morning, she thought. Every 
body had been so raw; she had never before had the feel 
ing that any of Joel s family should be handled delicately. 

She brought the platters out to the table, placing the 
chicken before Joel and the vegetables by herself. Pris and 
Joel were laughing at something and Elaine was standing 
beside them, smiling tolerantly. In any case, it was all right 
now, Harriet thought to herself. 

"Shall we sit down?" she asked them, and waited for 
Joel to hold out Elaine s chair before she sat down herself. 

They bent their heads to their food, eating silently for 
a few moments, enjoying the first mouthfuls. 

Pris said, forking a small onion, "Harriet, did I tell you 
that Kit is going to let me buy a new dress on her discount 
at Considine s?" 

"No," Harriet said. "How swell." 


"Particularly swell," Pris said, "because I m going to a 
very spiify party Thursday night, and I haven t anything 
to wear at all. This will redeem the family honor." 

It was delightful that they were all normal again, Har 
riet thought. Even Joel had begun to show that familiar 
boredom that appeared whenever they talked about clothes. 

"I d like to see you get something white," Elaine said 
thoughtfully. "You look so girlish in white." 

"That is not my aim, Ma," Pris said, grinning. Yes, it was 
all right, she was amused. In her touchy mood she might 
have taken off ense at the suggestion. 

"Why not?" Elaine asked wonderingly. 

Joel laughed at her. "Can you visualize Pris reeling home 
in white organdie?" he asked. 

"Oh, shut up, Joel," Pris said, still grinning. "Mother 
hasn t learned some things about me yet." 

"Yes, I have," Elaine said firmly. "But I try to be mod 
ern. I shut my eyes to them." 

They laughed at her. "That s not the real reason," Joel 
told her. "I can remember from my own college days. You 
were afraid to speak to me. I caught you once, rehearsing 
a motherly speech in front of your mirror. But you never 
delivered it." 

"I hate to be unpleasant," Elaine murmured. 

"That s the secret of our upbringing," Joel told Harriet. 
"Our mother hated to be unpleasant." 

"I think it turned out very well," Harriet said admiringly. 

"Oh, yes," Joel said. "Elaine could earn a fortune analyz 
ing her method for Parents Magazine" 

"But there wasn t any method," Elaine said in a troubled 
way. "At least, I never thought of one." 

"That s what I mean," Joel told her. "The Randolf Sys- 

90 June 

tern. Untouched by human hand. Better babies with less 

"Sometimes I think you children tease me too much," 
Elaine said firmly. "I m not a complete nincompoop." 

They laughed at her again, and Harriet was warm and 
sure of her footing now. She dished out second helpings 
of the vegetables and ate some herself. She thought, I would 
get fat if I didn t worry so much. Worrying keeps me 
thin. She grinned to herself, and Joel saw it. "What s amus 
ing you so much?" 

The others turned to look at her. "Oh, nothing," she 
said, embarrassed, and casting around for something obvi 
ous. "The Randolf System," she said. "I was just thinking 
about it." 

"Oh, Harriet!" Elaine said, with so much emotion that 
Harriet was bewildered. 

Joel understood, however. "No," he said firmly. "No, 
Mother." Harriet looked at him and he smiled at her again. 
"You re not going to be a grandmother yet," he told Elaine. 
Elaine shook her head sadly. "Oh," she said. "I was ex 
cited for a moment. It s too bad, you know. Two of my 
children married and no grandchildren. I would so like to 
have one." 

"Cheer up, Mom," Pris told her. "I ll marry a man who 
can afford twins. How would you like that?" 

Suddenly the whole pleasant atmosphere changed. Joel 
spoke sharply. "If you can find one," he said, and Harriet 
looked at him with concern, understanding the thought 
that underlay his words. His fine, thin face, so like his 
mother s, was drawn into two long lines on either side of 
his nose extending to his mouth. He looked like a high- 
strung animal for a moment, like a stallion she had once 


seen, which a second later had reared up and kicked out 
at a man. 

She said swiftly, "Pris is going to get herself a millionaire, 
she told me so." She laughed, trying to turn it all into a 
joke, so that Joel would laugh with her. At first he refused 
to respond, but as she continued to face him, holding the 
smile on her face until her muscles began to get tired, his 
shoulders gradually lowered and his face relaxed. 

"Oh," he said. "Deserting the college boys, eh?" 

Pris looked uncertainly at him. She had seen his mo 
mentary anger too, and evidently she didn t want to arouse 
it again. "They were too much of a strain," she said. "I 
got tired of having them wave their Phi Beta Kappa keys 
in my face." 

They laughed with her a little unsteadily. The small epi 
sode had shown all of them how precarious their humor 
was, and its effect was to subdue them for a" while. They 
spoke politely and slowly to each other, and Harriet felt 
more and more depressed. She was grateful, though, to Pris 
for having averted a quarrel. Fulke, she knew, was still 
a live affection for Pris, and it must have hurt her to laugh 
at him. It was kind of her, she thought. Pris was kind. All 
of them were. They were hurting each other only because 
they had become absorbed in their own separate problems. 
It took something visible, like Joel s anger, to make them 

Gradually they crept back into their old tempo and 
Harriet followed them, half afraid of another outbreak. 
There was a constant reminder behind their gaiety. Every 
now and then somebody would make a sharp remark and 
then they all became individuals, each one lashing out for 
himself. It was tiring, like a fever chart; they were up one 

92 June 

minute and down another. It was not safe to relax, because 
as soon as she did there would be another flare of tempers 
and she would be jerked back to alertness with too great a 
harshness. She begaa to brace herself for the next one, 
straining her nerves and her attention to meet it when it 
should arise. They have never been like this before, she 
thought. Something is happening to all of them. She began 
to feel that if they could get away from the table they 
would somehow be more peaceable. But they ate slowly, 
interrupting themselves to make conversation, and it seemed 
as if they would never finish. 

Finally Elaine laid her fork down on her plate and 
sighed. "I ve eaten too much," she told Harriet, "I m not 
used to such good food." 

Pris s round face went grim. "You ought to be more 
loyal, Mother," she said. She was not joking. 

Elaine stood up from the table and wandered over to 
the couch. "Well, dear," she said over her shoulder to 
Pris, "you couldn t expect to be as good a cook as Harriet 
in so short a time." 

"No," Pris said. She got up too, and Harriet and Joel 
were left sitting at their table. Harriet stared unthinkingly 
at the unpleasant litter in front of her. The dessert dishes 
were stained with blueberry pie, and napkins were crumpled 
by the plates. She automatically began to stack the dishes. 
Her wrists and ankles were weak. She felt as if she had 
been sitting with a bunch of firecrackers. The explosions 
had kept her jumping and blinking so long that she was 
tired of them; they no longer had such an effect on her. 
She made no effort to smooth over this new trouble, and 
as she went out into the kitchen with the plates, she heard 
Joel say something to Elaine and their voices rise sharply 


for a moment and then die down again. She deliberately 
took her time with washing the dishes. 

When she finally came back into the living room, with 
the table cleared and the dishes put away, she found the 
three of them sitting on the couch together. They were 
quite amiable again. Pris was sprawled out in one of her 
familiar, lazy positions and Elaine looked fresh, the little 
color remaining in her cheeks only making her prettier. 
Joel was telling them an unimportant but amusing story 
about his office, and they were all laughing quite naturally. 

Harriet sat down quietly without saying anything to 
any of them. This new shift was almost as unpleasant as 
the other one, she thought, because she simply couldn t 
keep up with them. She kept remembering Joel s angry 
face when Pris had implied that he could not afford a baby, 
and Pris s face when Elaine had so blithely dismissed her 
cooking. Had they forgotten those things already, she won 
dered? If so, she was not able to follow them; they changed 
moods too quickly. It made her feel lonely and strange with 
them. She didn t understand them at all. 

They stayed late as they always stayed after a Sunday 
dinner. Whatever upset Harriet left them completely un 
touched. They were troubled by something; she could see 
them remember it every now and then, but it never oc 
curred to them to go home and think it out in peace. It was 
almost nine before Pris and Elaine got up to leave, and by 
that time Harriet was very tired. She was rather glad to 
have Joel go out with them to take them to the subway. 
For just a minute, she wanted to be alone. 

Moving through the apartment, righting the chairs, 
emptying the ashtrays and putting highball glasses in the 
kitchen sink, she began to get the hangover feeling that 

94 June 1939: 

used to seize her in her father s house whenever they had 
given a party. There was something terrible about the dregs 
of people, even when you ve enjoyed them. When you ve 
been tense and unhappy, as she was now, and as she had 
been at home, they were loathesome. Every sign of life 
reminded her of something somebody had said, and alone 
with the memory she would turn it over and over in her 
mind, exaggerating it until it seemed enormous. It was so 
familiar to think this way that she almost saw the cream- 
colored walls of her father s living room around her, and 
she was startled when she heard the key in the front door 
and Joel came in. He put an arm around her shoulders as 
she bent to pick up Elaine s crumpled linen handkerchief 
which had been dropped beside the couch. As she straight 
ened up again, he kissed her. "Tired, babj?" he said. 

She nodded, smiling a little. Some of Her loneliness began 
to go away now that he was here. She spoke openly, Aink- 
ing that without his family he would be frank as he had 
always been. "Everybody seeriied so touchy today," she 
said. "I guess it was the heat." 

"Yes," Joel said. He dropped his arm from her back 
and walked over to his armchair. "Must have been," he 
said thoughtfully. He didn t look at her. 

She went over to him and sat down on the floor by him, 
resting her arm on his knees. "You, too, darling," she said. 
"What was the matter?" 

"Oh, nothing," Joel said carelessly. "The heat too, I 

His silence, instead of hurting her, made her ashamed 
that she had pried. She put her chin down and leaned her 
forehead on her arm. All right, she thought. We ll leave 
that alone, if you want. 


But there was something else that had troubled her; per 
haps he would feel free to talk about that. "Joel, Fm sort 
of worried about Pris," she told him. 

"Why?" Joel asked her. He seemed genuinely surprised, 
and perfectly willing to talk about it. 

"She s unhappy," Harriet told him. 

Joel laughed. "Pris unhappy!" he said scornfully. "She 
was just having a mood. She couldn t stay unhappy long, 
you know. She s like a rubber ball. She bounces." 

"Perhaps," Harriet said thoughtfully. "She seemed so 
troubled this afternoon. In a very grown-up way." 

"Well," Joel said. "She s twenty." 

"But she s always been so young," Harriet said. "For her 


"Don t let her trouble you," Joel said. He leaned down 
and kissed her on the top of her head. 

"Dont you think it s a little dangerous?" Harriet asked 
him, still frowning a bit. "The way she talks? She did 
turn Fulke down, you know^ and I always thought she 
was fond of him. And now she s off on this funny track 
about marrying a rich man." 

Joel laughed, throwing his head back. Harriet, looking 
up at him, caught for a moment the bony triangle under 
his chin with lamplight bringing out the structure of it. 
"Listen," Joel told her. "Every young girl talks about mar 
rying a millionaire. You don t take that seriously, do you?" 

Harriet said thoughtfully, "Well, I know they do when 
they re children." 

"And Pris is still a child," Joel told her. "You had such 
an unnatural, grown-up adolescence that you don t realize 
that some girls mature a good deal later. Pris hasn t ever 

9^ June 1939: 

had any responsibilities and she s always been with kids 
her own age. She s still a little girl, that s all, darling." 

Harriet drew a pattern on his knee with the tip of her 
index finger. She and Joel discussed whatever was in their 
minds, they had no secrets from each other. But the dis 
cussion was always from two points of view which could 
never be reconciled. In some ways that was enriching, they 
learned a good deal from them, but once in a while Harriet 
wanted desperately to make Joel really understand her, and 
then she had a sense of futility. 

"There was something about her today that made her 
seem grown-up to me," she told Joel stubbornly. 

"Listen, honey," Joel said. He reached down and caught 
her hands, pulling her up so that she could sit on his lap. 
She leaned against him, feeling the heaviness of his coat, 
and the bulk where the lapels crossed, all softnesses com 
pared to the hardness of his chest. "You think too much 
about people," Joel told her. "You analyze and wonder 
and get upset about them. Why don t you just take them 
the way they are, accept them for what they seem to be? 
Honestly, you get along just as well that way." 
"Do you really think so?" she asked him curiously. 
"Of course," Joel said. "Listen, those physiognomists 
have the right idea. People are what they look like. I don t 
see any reason for making it more difficult. I know a lot of 
guys have written stuff about how complicated they are 
I had to plow through some of those books in college. But 
it s nonsense. Actually, people are simple. You can divide 
them up into types and there you have them. There are ex 
ceptions, of course, but well, look at our family. Now 
you re the quiet, shy type. And Pris is the cute, outdoor- 
girl type. And Kit is the smart type. See how it goes? It fits, 


doesn t it? That s all you need to know to understand peo 
ple. All this worrying is silly." 

Harriet was quiet. How her father and her friends would 
make fun of such an analysis, she thought. And yet Joel 
spoke with such authority that she was tempted to take him 
seriously. After all, she decided reluctantly, Joel got along 
well with people, better than her father did. Didn t that 
argue that he understood them better? She knew what he 
meant; he explained it badly. She knew that he meant in 
tuition was as reliable as thought. And that was something 
that had always confused her. Her training told her no, but 
here were Joel and his family as successful in human rela 
tionships as you could wish, and there was her father, fight 
ing out every inch of his way rationally, and hardly enjoy 
ing anything. 

"The trouble is," she said, thinking out loud, "that even 
if you re right, I can t think that way myself. I m no good 
at it. I can t make lightning decisions about people and feel 
sure that they re true." She saw his face and knew that he 
didn t want to talk about it any more. "But then I couldn t," 
she added laughingly, to end the discussion. "I m the quiet, 
shy type, after all." 

He held her tightly against him and they were silent for 
a few minutes. Harriet could hear the faucet in the kitchen 
dripping softly and monotonously. A little cool breeze had 
come with the dark, and was blowing through their high 
French windows. The red curtains stirred. The noises in the 
street seemed to go further away from them. They were 
left alone by everything now; there was only one light in 
the room and it shone on their heads, making them com 
plete in their circle, with darkness on every side of them. 
She realized that Joel had felt this for some seconds while 

9 June 1939 * 

she had gone on talking, keeping words between them. Joel 
smiled at her, and yawned. "I m sleepy," he said. "What 
about bed?" 

"I really ought to finish cleaning up," she said smilingly, 
anticipating his answer. 

"The hell with that," he said. 

"But, Joel" she said, teasing him. 

"The hell with it, I said," he told her. He got up, lifting 
her with him and standing her on the floor again. 

"All right," she said, smiling. She leaned against him and 
he turned out the light. They walked into the bedroom 
slowly. There were children yelling outside and the street- 
lamp cast a yellow light into their room, but there was so 
much understanding between them that they were as soli 
tary as they had been in Joel s bedroom in South Wales. 
Only there it had been the moon that had lit up the room, 
and its light had been blue-white instead of yellow. 

Later in the night, Harriet lay beside Joel and half opened 
her eyes. The street-light still slanted across them and now 
that she had been used to the dark for a while, it hurt them 
a little bit. She squeezed them shut a second and turned 
over, with her head towards Joel s shoulder. He moved 
slightly and she realized that he was still awake. 

"What s the matter, darling?" she asked him. "Too hot 
to sleep?" 

"No," he said. His voice came cool and strange from the 
darkness. She could see the heavy outline of his face but she 
couldn t recognize the features in it. Now he turned to 
wards her a little bit and she saw his eyes, dark too, but 
bright against flesh. "I was just thinking," he told her. 

"At this hour?" she said laughingly. 

"Ummm," he said. His tone remained sober, and the 


smile on her face died away. Whatever had been troubling 
him all day, whatever it was that had made Elaine quarrel 
with him, was in his mind now. But she was half afraid to 
probe. She wanted to know and she wanted to help him, 
but even more acutely she wanted to feel that he was strong 
and didn t need her help. 

"Why don t you try to get some sleep?" she said gently. 

"Can t," he told her. The dark had impressed them 
enough to make them whisper. His voice sounded very im 
personal that way. 

There was something about his tone and his manner that 
made her realize he wanted to be questioned. His body, 
pressing against her side, felt tense. Perhaps he had wanted 
her to draw him out all evening. He had been so delib 
erately mysterious. If he had wanted to hide anything he 
could have evaded her more subtly. 

"What s the matter, Joel?" she asked timidly. 

"Matter?" he said. His voice sounded almost relieved. 

"What were you and Elaine talking about?" she said. 
"This afternoon. She seemed upset." 

"Oh, just some business," Joel said carelessly. But his tone 
was not careless, and she closed her eyes for a second, wait 
ing for him to go on. 

"It s that American Tinware stock," he said. His voice 
was lower and thicker now, almost sullen. 

"What about American Tinware?" Harriet said. "You 
didn t tell me anything about any stock." 

"I didn t think it was important," Joel said. His voice was 
honest and a little bewildered. 

"But it is? "she asked. 

"Rather," Joel said. He spoke drily, as if he were holding 
his breath a little. He let it out with the next sentence, 

ioo June 2939: 

which came forcefully. "I invested all Elaine s money in it. 
The money she got for the South Wales house." 

"You did?" Harriet said incredulously. "But you don t 
know anything about stocks, Joel." 

"No," he said impatiently, as if he expected her to know 
the details. "I didn t invest it myself, of course. John Gor 
don did." 

"Who s he?" Harriet asked. It was exasperating trying to 
learn the story this way. Joel squeezed out his information 
so slowly. 

"John Gordon?" Joel said to her. "I went to college with 
him. He works down in Wall Street. He told me about this 
American Tinware and it sounded like a good thing, so I 
told Elaine about it." 

"You mean you persuaded her to invest her money in 
it?" Harriet said. Her voice sounded sharp, and she frowned 
to herself. She didn t want to frighten him. 

"No, I didn t," Joel said. He sounded a little angry now. 
"That s just the thing. I just mentioned it to her, and said 
that Johnny was all excited about it, and she jumped on me 
to invest her money in it for her. It was her idea entirely." 

"What did she want to do that for?" Harriet asked him. 

"She feels pinched," Joel told her. "Now that Kit has 
left. You know she gives them money. Kit s managed fairly 
well, but she s had to have help from Elaine every now and 

"Poor Elaine," Harriet said. It was the sort of gambling 
that she would do since she knew nothing about money. 
"She lost it, I gather." Again her voice sounded tart and 
she was annoyed. 

"Yes," Joel said sullenly. "All of it." 

Harriet breathed in sharply. "All of it!" she repeated. 


"That s what I said," Joel said. He sounded angry, and 
she realized that to be helpful she should be alert and get 
the story with the least amount of questioning. 

"Did she buy on margin?" she asked him. 

"Yes," Joel said, his voice a little higher. "That s what 
happened. It dropped very suddenly and she couldn t cover. 
Johnny is terribly upset about it, he can t understand it." 

"I should think so," Harriet said, not with reproach but 
sympathy. Her sympathy was not for Johnny Gordon, but 
for Joel, who was Johnny s friend and w r ho had vouched 
for him. 

They lay silently for a while. The walls of the little room 
were close about them, and Joel s bare arm and side pressed 
against Harriet, but she was still afraid. The room seemed 
to enclose the infinity that frightened her so much, and she 
was lost in it, trying to realize all the implications of what 
Joel had told her. 

But this was calamitous. How would they manage? 
Elaine and Kit and Pris, they had been used to comfort and 
to living the easiest sort of life. They weren t equipped for 
poverty,, and that was what this was. Without Elaine s 
money, they had nothing except what Joel and Kit could 
give them. And Joel made fifty a week and Kit made 
around twenty-two. How could they run three apartments 
on that especially when one of them was run by Pris and 
Elaine, who didn t know how to economize? The knowl 
edge sank down on her slowly like a heavy weight, and as 
it sank it began to seem to her that there was no way of 

"Elaine s simply lost," Joel said suddenly. "I ve never 
seen her like this before. Did you hear her talking? She was 
so violent! Like somebody else, another woman." 

102 June 

The gentle aristocratic type, Harriet thought bitterly, 
and then was shocked at her impulse to make fun of him. 
But she couldn t help it; earlier this evening she had heard 
his views on people and thought that he might be right. 
And now it seemed his idea of Elaine was completely 
wrong. It was the first time he had ever seemed vulnerable 
to her. 

"What will she do?" she asked him gently, trying in her 
tone to apologize for her thoughts. 

"I don t know," Joel said. "That s what I ve been think 
ing about. I don t know. It s an awful mess, Harriet." 

"That apartment s too expensive for them," Harriet said 

"They have to stick to it, though," Joel told her. "They 
signed a two-year lease. Unbreakable, too; Elaine took it to 
Mr. Graham when Kit left. She thought she might get out 
of it then." 

"And they have nothing left?" Harriet asked him. Her 
mind began to work more clearly now, exploring the possi 
bilities, trying to discover what must be done. Something 
could be done, she knew now, losing her first hopelessness, 
but whatever it was would be drastic. 

"Elaine has some jewelry she thinks she might sell," Joel 
told her. 

Harriet stirred, suddenly uncomfortable in the bed. Its 
softness and the darkness seemed to obscure her thoughts, 
no matter how frantically they worked. 

"Pris won t look for a job, Elaine says," Joel said, still 
sullenly. "And God knows Elaine isn t fit for anything." 

"No," Harriet said absent-mindedly. "Pris told me this 
afternoon that she didn t want to work." 


"But she s got to!" Joel said violently. "What does she 
think she is? They can t starve!" 

"Does she know about it?" Harriet asked him. 

"Oh, sure, you know Elaine would tell her about it as 
soon as she heard," Joel said. 

Harriet realized that he was taking out his distress in an 
ger at any little thing. 

"At any rate," she said, thinking vainly of something to 
soothe him, "Kit and you have jobs. Perhaps between us 
we can carry them along until they find something." She 
laughed. "Maybe Pris will marry her rich man, after all." 

"It s so hopeless," Joel said desperately. His speech came 
in jerks, as if each thought exploded him. 

"No, Joel," she said. "Not hopeless. It s darned hard, but 
we can manage. Somehow." 

As she spoke she realized what it was they must do. Her 
body stiffened as the thought came to her. She tried to ex 
amine it more carefully before she spoke of it to Joel He 
was quiet too, evidently having his own thoughts. 

The problem, of course, is all the different establishments, 
Harriet was thinking. Seventy-two dollars a week would 
be a good deal if we were together. Joel spoke suddenly as 
if he had read her mind. "If only they weren t saddled with 
that big apartment," he said. 

She nodded, forgetting that he probably couldn t see her 
in the dark. Yes, he was thinking along the same lines, she 
could see. But did the same ideas come into his head? Did 
he think, for instance, of the red curtains which had faded 
a little bit and which she had decided to have re-dipped? 
Even their fading made them more personal, made their 
apartment more of a home. And what about their books, 
neat in the shelves, and their pictures on the walls? Did he 

J une 

think about them or of her furniture which was so well pol 
ished it looked beloved? 

Joel moved impatiently and she realized she hadn t an 
swered him. "Yes," she said, still stalling. "That s the trou 
ble, isn t it?" 

Joel took her hand. 

She felt pityingly that she couldn t let him go on, it was 
too hard for him to ask it of her. She said before he could 
speak, "Why don t we move in with them, Joel?" She felt 
his movement beside her and knew that it was half relief 
and half bewilderment because she had robbed him of his 
carefully planned speech. She went on hastily. "We can 
take Kit s and Gray s room," she said, "and we can help 
with the rent. It s silly to pay two rents, isn t it, when 
Elaine has so much room?" 

Joel squeezed her hand. "That would be rather hard on 
you, Harriet," he said. "Wouldn t it?" 

She saw that this was no time for honesty. "Oh, no," she 
said quickly, trying to make her protest sound spontaneous. 
"Of course it wouldn t. You know how I like Elaine and 

And really it was foolish of her to be so reluctant. It was 
only the first shock that made it hard, the realization that 
,she and Joel and their possessions would lose their individ 
uality now, that their privacy would be gone. But I do like 
Elaine and Pris, she thought; it s only that I haven t got 
used to thinking about it. 

"I don t want you to do it unless you really feel you 
want to," Joel said to her tenderly. His voice protected her, 
and she responded to it unconsciously. It made her feel 
grateful, although she knew it was ridiculous, since it was 
she who was protecting him. 


"Really, Joel," she said. "It will be all right." 

He brought her hand up suddenly and kissed it, not on 
the palm as he did sometimes, but on the back. He must 
have been nervous, she thought, to be so relieved. 

"Harriet," he told her. "You re so lovely-" 

She laughed at him affectionately. "Darling," she said, 
"you re like a little boy. When you get your way every 
thing s beautiful." 

She saw his eyes catch the light as they looked at her and 
now that she was used to the dark she could see his face 
more clearly and that it was smiling. 

"Don t laugh at me," he said. "I was so afraid you 
wouldn t want to." 

She sobered as she saw he wanted her to. "Of course it s 
all right," she said again, and she put enthusksm in her 
voice. "I think it ll be fun. You know, in a way it ll be bet 
ter. I get lonely sometimes when you re away at work* 
Now they can keep me company." 

"You re being honest?" Joel said dubiously. 

"I am, Joel, really," she said. Now she believed it. She 
began to think about the Randolfs and how they had al 
ways fascinated her. Perhaps, living with them, she would 
become more really a part of their fun. She tried to tell Joel 
how she felt. 

"I m not used to living with a family," she said, "You re 
always laughing at me for being afraid of people, maybe 
it s because of that. Maybe 111 learn something now. Your 
family wouldn t let anybody be afraid for long." 

Joel said, "Hey! I m not arguing with you. I ll take your 
word for it and be glad to." 

She laughed. "All right, then," she said. "When shall we 

io6 June 

tell Elaine? By the way, do you think she ll like the no 

"Oh," Joel told her carelessly. "She ll be tickled pink. I 
think Pris was getting to be too much of a strain for her. 
Probably you ll be able to help out there." 

"I d like to," Harriet told him. 

"We ll call Elaine tomorrow," Joel said. "And tell her 
we re moving in. Good thing we didn t get a lease on this 
place. Remember how hard we tried to persuade the land 
lord to give us one?" 

"Yes," Harriet said. "We were lucky." 

She was quiet for a while and her mind involuntarily 
went back to her belongings which she had collected with 
so much trouble and arranged with so much care. Where 
would she put them in Elaine s apartment, she wondered? 
There was not too much space. 

Joel yawned beside her and moved his long legs under 
the sheet so that it was pulled off her. It was warm and she 
was rather glad to be uncovered. She lay feeling the little 
breeze on her hot flesh, pricking her and making goose- 
pimples. Joel began to breathe heavily and she saw that he 
had gone to sleep. She wished that she could sleep so easily, 
but her mind had been too sharply awakened and she kept 
thinking about the strangeness of this life with Joel. It 
wasn t what she had visualized its being; they seemed to be 
going steadily downhill instead of up as she had believed. 
But they would reach their level soon, she thought, frown 
ing in the darkness, and in the meantime they were learn 
ing a lot of things about each other, things that would help 
them to live more closely together. 

Joel said something in his sleep, a word through his 
opened mouth which he didn t enunciate properly. She 


tried to hear what it was but it was only a sound with no 
sense to it. It was very late, she heard the muffled clumsy 
sound of the milk-w r agon in the street outside, and it made 
her feel lonely to be listening to it with Joel asleep at her 

Suddenly she turned and puffed up her pillow, burying 
her face in it as if she could close out sound and sight. This 
depression was ridiculous, she thought, now that everything 
was settled. Why did her mind stay so heavy? When she 
closed her eyes, she suddenly saw such a world of space 
that she grew dizzy. She put out her hand to touch Joel to 
reassure herself. But w r hen she went to sleep that touch 
would no longer be comforting, she thought, and it was on 
such a night as this that she might dream of the little man 
and the little woman on the platform again, bobbing at her 
out of infinity. 

Harriet straightened the silver candlesticks on the Gover 
nor Winthrop desk, and stood back to look at her new 
room. The space was too small, her furniture was crowded 
now, so that the room was as cluttered as any other room in 
Elaine s apartment. She tried to think of something else that 
might be eliminated, but they needed everything, the desk, 
the studio couch, the armchair and the bureau. The book 
shelves took up a lot of wall space, but she couldn t let them 
go. Her books were her only personal possessions. 

The red curtains looked hot in the bright south light and 
the faded parts showed too clearly. She went over to them 
and pulled at them, trying to adjust their folds to the old 
gracious lines, but they continued to fall stiffly and she 
finally shook her head and let her arm drop. 

She thought, it was a mistake to get so house proud, I 

io8 June 

might have known we would be moving someday. I 
shouldn t have let myself get attached to the apartment. 

Somebody knocked on her door and she turned her head 
jerkily. "Come in," she said. 

Pris came in, closing the door behind her. She was wear 
ing a pair of tailored white-silk pajamas. Her firm, pink- 
fleshed body showed through them as she stood in the light 
from the window, but the light also showed a worn place 
on the elbow, and a jagged rip in one trouser leg. 

"Good morning," she said. 

Harriet smiled at her, watching her warily. There was 
something strange about her manner. 

She came into the room and put her arms around Har 
riet s neck, hugging her briefly and letting her go almost 
as instantaneously. "I m so glad you re going to be living 
here," she said impulsively. But it was a funny sort of thing 
to say, there was no visible reason for it, and it made Har 
riet feel uncomfortable. "We ll have fun, the two of us," 
Pris went on. "You can tell me anything you want to do, 
and I ll do it, Harriet. I m going to try to learn how to 
work, you can teach me. I ll do all the dirty work, scrub 
bing floors, and washing dishes and all those things. I won t 
be any trouble to you." 

"Oh," Harriet said. "You mean housework." 

"Yes," Pris told her. "Joel gave me a talking-to. I guess 
I ve been kind of selfish. But it ll be different if you re here. 
I m so happy, Harriet." 

She went over and sat down in the armchair. Sun, com 
ing in the window, hit her blonde head, and she looked 
little in her boyish pajamas. She had pulled her knees up 
and wrapped her arms around them. 

Harriet looked at her a minute and then went over to the 


studio couch and sat on it. She lit herself a cigarette from 
the box on the table there, and leaned against the wall. 

Why was Pris so effusive? It wasn t natural, she was a 
generous w r arm person, but she had pride too, and she had 
never thrown herself at people s feet. This was a mockery 
of some sort. 

"You don t need help, Pris," Harriet said slowly, won 
dering what was the right thing to say. "You re doing all 

"Oh, no, I don t know anything," Pris said urgently, 
"You re so full of helpful hints and things. That s what I 
need. And you re economical. I ve got to learn to be eco 

Harriet stubbed out the cigarette helplessly. Now she 
sounded almost openly antagonistic. 

Pris smiled at her. Her teeth were white against her 
warmly colored face. "I want you to tell me just what to 
do about everything," she said. 

Harriet stood up suddenly and walked over to the win 
dow. It must have been that Joel had hurt her. And it was 
very likely; he still felt raw about the whole situation and 
took out his grievances on innocent things. Probably, too, 
he had held Harriet up as an example, which was bad. She 
wondered how she could smooth Pris down. Unfortunately, 
Pris had created this very artificial pretense of being de 
lighted, which made it all the harder to get at her. If she 
were only openly angry it would be easier. 

"Pris," she said, "this is hard on me too. Heaven knows 
I m not used to bossing people and I don t want to do it. 
But keeping house and being thrifty happen to be things I 
can do. Just as you can play tennis. I can t play tennis and 
you don t know how to wash windows. At the moment, 

IIO June 

the housekeeping has become the most important talent be 
cause we re hard up. That brings me into the limelight. But 
if you have any friendliness towards me you won t rub it 
in. I don t like it a bit, honestly I don t." 

She thought out each sentence as she said it, trying to 
appeal to Pris s generosity. 

Pris said, still smiling, "Harriet, dear, you re talking non 
sense. You sound as if you think I hold it against you. Of 
course I don t. I was just telling you how happy I was that 
you were here to take over." 

Well, that was a failure, Harriet thought wearily. She 
caught the window curtain in her hand and twisted it into 
small pleats. When she let it go again she looked absently 
at the wrinkles she had made. 

"Damn it, Pris, stop being so sweet and forbearing," she 
said, her anxiety suddenly bursting out. She turned as she 
spoke and saw the smile leave Pris s face. She went on, 
pounding in her words to take advantage of the moment. 
"I wasn t being polite," she said. "I really meant what I 
said. You re angry at Joel, that s the trouble; he must have 
hurt your feelings. But you know him too well to take him 
seriously. Can t you see he s so upset about this mess that 
he was taking it out on you? He blames himself for losing 
Elaine s money. He s not angry at you, he s angry at him 

Pris s face was completely exposed now. "He d no right 
to talk to me that way, just the same," she said. 

In spite of her firmness, Harriet felt relieved. At least 
Pris was being natural again. 

"I know it s hard on you," she said, still trying to press 
her point. "But you ve got to make allowances for him, 
Pris. Please, think about his state of mind right now and try 


to understand how unhappy he is. You can t be angry with 

"You d be surprised," Pris said, but with less violence. 

"We ve all got to be as forbearing as we can," Harriet 
said. "Because he s got a very big responsibility on his shoul 
ders. It s not pleasant for him." 

"It s not pleasant for me," Pris said furiously. "Do you 
think I like being cooped up in this mangy apartment, never 
having any decent clothes, or any spending money?" 

Harriet saw that she was no longer blaming Joel; her an 
ger was against something unseen now, something bigger. 
She spoke quickly. "But that isn t JoePs fault, is it?" she 
said, smiling at Pris. "Or mine, or Elaine s or anybody s?" 

"No," Pris said, unbending suddenly. Her face looked 
good-natured again and she grinned. Harriet let out a 
breath, the danger was over, "No, I see what you mean," 
Pris said. "But at the time he made me so darned sore, I" 
she paused for a moment searching for words "I wanted to 
kick his teeth out," she finished. Her extravagance showed 
that she was entirely won over, and was laughing at herself. 
They grinned at each other and Harriet realized the inci 
dent was closed. The Randolfs never discussed anything; 
they didn t bother to explain things even to themselves. 
Harriet thought now that it was a pleasant habit; discus 
sions too often hang on the unimportant things. 

She took some stockings out of her workbasket and sat 
down in the armchair to darn them. Pris made a face at the 
sight. "I just throw mine away," she said. "I guess I ll have 
to learn to darn too." She stood indecisively for a second 
and then made an awkward gesture and went out the door. 
Harriet s smile lasted after she had gone. 

She threaded her needle and put the polished white egg 

ii2 June 1939: 

into the foot of the first stocking. As she stitched, she 
thought some more about the problem of Pris. The main 
trouble with her, she thought, was that she had nothing in 
teresting to do. But what was there for a girl like Pris to 
do? She didn t want a job and she didn t like working 
around the house. That seemed to leave only marriage. But 
even marriage could be a mistake. If Pris wanted it too badly 
and thought about it too much, she might make a poor 
choice and be unhappy. 

Harriet shook her head almost as if she had been talking 
out loud to herself and the stockings she held slithered from 
her lap into a soft brown pile on the floor. As she bent to 
pick them up the telephone rang. She hesitated, poised over 
the stockings, waiting to see if someone would answer. 
When it rang a second time, she got up, letting the stock 
ings lie there, and went out into the hall. Elaine, however, 
came out of her bedroom door just before she reached 
the telephone and picked up the receiver. She was still 
undressed, wearing a sheer negligee which was a little 

"Hello," she said. Harriet stood waiting to see if it was 
for her. 

"No," Elaine said. "She s taking a shower at the moment. 
Can I have her call you back?" 

She was silent for a moment and Harriet heard the sounds 
of a voice coming squeakingly through the receiver. 

"All right," Elaine said. "Herbert Winters. I ll tell her." 
She hung up the receiver and smiled at Harriet. "For Pris," 
she explained unnecessarily. Harriet nodded. Elaine s hair 
was stringy on either side of her face and her blue eyes 
looked tired. She caught at her negligee with an absent- 
minded gesture to close it over her throat. 

tfE W YORK 113 

"I wish she wouldn t go out with that Herbert Winters 
person," Elaine said. "There s something so unpleasant 
about him. I don t know quite what it is. He s perfectly 
well mannered and all that, perhaps too well mannered. But 
I m always afraid he s going to tell me a dirty story. Isn t 
that ridiculous? He looks so confidential all the time." 

Harriet laughed. "I suppose most of Pris s friends are still 
in college," she said. 

Elaine frowned. "I don t think she s been seeing any of 
the college boys and girls," she said. "That nice Fulke, you 
know, and there were lots of others. To tell the truth, I 
can t remember all their names, but it s been a long time 
since I ve seen any of them." 

"Well, perhaps they re not in the city at the moment," 
Harriet said. "And Pris has to know somebody." 

"Of course," Elaine said. "You know, it s rather strange, 
but I haven t seen any of my old friends for a long time. 
And I don t think Joel sees his. Except in the way of busi-. 
ness. Does he?" 

"No," Harriet said. She had been worried about that. 
Joel had felt that he couldn t entertain his friends and he 
had stopped seeing them. But it would have been perfectly 
possible if they had been willing to do things simply. A 
couple for dinner one night, beer and sandwiches for some 
friends another night, they could have done it. The trouble 
was that Joel went at things so completely. Fifty dollars a 
week had represented absolute poverty to him; he couldn t 
believe that people lived comfortably on that little. He had 
no idea of compromise, he had felt they must give up every 

Elaine went into the living room and Harriet followed 
her. It was still untidy from last night. The ashtrays were 

ii4 J une 1 939 : 

full and there was a cushion on the floor where Joel had sat. 
Looking at it, Harriet wanted to do something vigorous to 
change it. She began emptying the ashtrays and plumping 
up the sofa cushions. Elaine stood idly watching her. 

"It seems to me that things get dirtier up here than they 
did down on Sixtieth Street," she said. "Or is that my imag 


"Perhaps they do," Harriet said non-committally. Elaine s 
servants had taken care of the Sixtieth Street house, and it 
had been dusted before she even got up in the morning. 

Pris came into the living room, dressed now in a skirt and 
sweater, with its sleeves pushed up. "What are you doing 
up, Mom?" she asked Elaine. 

"Something woke me up," Elaine said. "I can t remem 
ber what." 

"The telephone," Harriet said. She hoped Elaine would 
give Pris her message, but she only nodded and reached for 
a cigarette. She held it for a moment and Harriet realized 
that she was waiting for a light. She struck a match and 
held it for her. Elaine drew a long puff and made a face. "I 
hate smoking before breakfast," she said. "I suppose it isn t 
ready yet?" 

"Yes," Harriet started to say, and Pris interrupted her. 
"Sure it is, Mom," she said. "Come on, let s eat, I m starv 
ing. Put that cigarette out if it bothers you so much." 

Elaine put the cigarette down obediently and they filed 
into the dining room, where Harriet had left the table laid 
for them. She had already eaten with Joel, but she poured 
herself another cup of coffee and sat down at the empty 
end of the table to watch them. It was nice, she thought, 
to have companionship. She liked being with people; even 
when she had been a little girl she had invented friends to 


take the place of dolls. Now she had live human beings for 

"By the way," she said to Pris. "There was a telephone 
message for you." She spoke about it because she thought 
Elaine had forgotten it, but she saw Elaine frown. 

"Yes," Elaine said. "I forgot to tell you. Herbert Win 
ters. He wanted you to call him back." 

"I m going out with him tonight," Pris said. "I wonder 
what he wants." She continued to eat, but Elaine had put 
down her fork and was watching her. 

"Do you like that man, Pris?" she asked. 

"Not much," Pris said carelessly. "But he s fun." 

"How do you mean, fun?" Elaine said. "How could he 
be fun if you don t like him?" 

"I mean he takes me to nice places and he s good- 
natured," Pris told her. 

"Oh," Elaine said. She looked at Harriet and then down 
at her plate again. "Well," she said. "I suppose you know 
what you re doing." 

Harriet had been waiting for some kind of argument, she 
realized, as she felt her muscles relax. It amused her to see 
that Pris had not been at all tense. She went on eating 
placidly and her face was neither troubled nor surprised. 
Evidently Elaine s protests never went any further than 
this. The Randolf System, Harriet thought, smiling to her 

Pris finished her breakfast long before Elaine had done 
with hers, and excused herself. 

"I want to call up Herbert before Mom finishes," she told 
Harriet laughingly. "So that it won t distress her to over 
hear our crude conversation." 

n6 June 1939: 

Elaine smiled at her remonstratively. "You talk such non 
sense, Pris," she said. 

Pris put down her napkin. "But some of my remarks hit 
home, don t they? 7 she said. 

"I don t know what you re talking about," Elaine told 
her. "I don t care what you say to that Winters man. You 
exaggerate so much, Pris." 

It was hard to tell when they were joking and when they 
were angry. 

Pris grinned again now and went over and kissed Elaine. 
"I get that from you, darling," she told her, and Elaine s 
irritation disappeared. She put her arm up and patted Pris 
affectionately. "Go ahead, you imp," she said. "Make your 
phone call." 

They watched her leave the room and then Elaine sighed 
and brought her befrilled arm up to rest on the table. She 
stirred her coffee, taking the spoon around and around the 
cup, without purpose, since the sugar must have dissolved 
loner agro. 

o c? 

"I wouldn t worry about her," Harriet said. "Pris has lots 
of common sense." 

"I just can t understand her any more," Elaine said. 
"She s taken up with some of the most dreadful people. Her 
friends used to be so charming." 

Harriet made no comment, although inwardly she felt 
that Pris s friends were chosen for the amusement they 
could give her as an unconscious protest against their life. 
She watched Elaine eating a biscuit, her fingers holding it 
delicately. She took tiny bites, and chewed them well be 
fore she took another. 

Pris s voice came distinctly from the hall, speaking too 
loudly and laughing a great deal. Her laughter was irritat- 

EW YORK 117 

ig to both of them because they couldn t know what it 
/as about, and Elaine was obviously straining to hear. 

She put the last piece of biscuit in her mouth after Pris 
.ad finished. "There," she said, nodding her head. "I am 
ight about that man, he s so vulgar he influences Pris. She 
lever used to be so loud. 7 

"That s probably defiance," Harriet said, smiling. "She 
vanted you to hear." 

"I don t know why," Elaine said. "She made such a point 
>f being secretive." 

Harriet was quiet again. She didn t want to get involved 
n the arguments between Elaine and Pris; they were both 
:erribly touchy. 

Pris came back, switching her shoulders a little as she 
talked. "Pm not going to be here for dinner," she told 
:hem. "Herbie made a lot of money at Saratoga last week 
end, he wants to celebrate." 

"My heavens!" Elaine said. "What is he? A gambler?" 
"No," Pris said scornfully. "Gambling is merely one of 
lis gentlemanly pleasures, darling. Don t be so snooty. I ve 
seen you at a race track more than once." 

Harriet almost laughed at Elaine s expression. It must be 
particularly maddening, she thought, to make a good point 
in an argument with her, and have her look as if she had 
suddenly thought of something else and not even heard 
what you said. Pris waited for a second and then walked 
indignantly out of the room. Elaine picked up her coffee 
cup again and deliberately took a sip out of it, although 
only the dregs had been left. Evidently she wasn t going to 
say anything. 

Harriet stood up and began to clear the table, and as she 
went out into the kitchen, Elaine followed her. She pulled 

n8 June 

out the little kitchen stool so that she could be close to Har 
riet, and sat down on it, her long sheer skirts falling around 
her. There was something incongruous about her in these 
surroundings; her elegance disappeared in them because it 
was so out of place. 

Harriet filled the dishpan with soapy water and began 
washing the dishes. She worked quickly, developing a sort 
of rhythm, and the kitchen became very quiet. The work 
and the quiet almost numbed her mind for a while. She was 
startled when Elaine interrupted her. 

"I m glad you and Joel are going to be here," she said. 

Harriet smiled past her shoulder, without commenting. 

"You re a lot of help, you know," Elaine said. "I can t 
seem to get used to this kind of life." 

"You will, though," Harriet assured her. "And it won t 
always be so bad. Joel will do better at his job and so will 
Kit. And Pris will find something for herself." She had fin 
ished the dishes and now r she got out the utensils for mixing 
a cake. Elaine got up and followed her to the kitchen table, 
pulling her little stool behind her. 

"It s all right for them," she said. "They re young. But 
I m too old, Harriet, to change my whole way of living." 

"It is harder on you," Harriet said consolingly. She lifted 
up the flour cup to the light to see that she had made the 
right measurement. "But we re all here to help you as much 
as we can," she said. 

"You re all sweet," Elaine said. She twisted the stool to 
a position where Harriet need not turn to look at her. "But 
it doesn t do any good." She looked down at her hands sud 
denly and Harriet saw with alarm that her lower lip was 
trembling. She watched her for a second, afraid to say any 
thing. Elaine was fighting to control herself. "Everything 


seems to be around our ears," she said, still looking down 
and then, lifting her head to meet Harriet s eyes, she went 
on, pouring herself out as if she had thought about it for a 
long time. "We lose our homes, we lose our money, even 
the little bit I thought would tide us over." Her lip quiv 
ered again. "And it s not just that. Everything is going, 
that s what s really frightening. The whole world is crum 
bling. Just crumbling. War will come any minute, I can 
feel it, and then that will be the end of the things I was 
brought up to expect." 

"Oh, that s gloomy," Harriet said. She laughed a little 
bit. "You know what it says in the Bible. It is easier for a 
camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man 
to enter into the kingdom of God. " She offered it jokingly, 
too embarrassed by Elaine s distress to dare take it seriously. 
But Elaine could not be distracted. 

"Mr. Randolf said that to me once when I wanted some 
thing," she said thoughtfully. "I ve forgotten what it was, 
but he couldn t aif ord to buy it. I told him then that I didn t 
give a hoot about the kingdom of God. I m not very reli 
gious, anyway, Harriet, and if Fm going to have a kingdom, 
I want one right here. I want my kingdom now." 

It was impossible to continue being flippant with her. 
Harriet laid her spoon down and looked at her. "I m not 
religious myself," she said. "As a matter of fact, I was just 
kidding. But you know, Elaine, there s something to the 
thought. I ve been realizing it lately. Having a great deal of 
money doesn t fit you for living. When you ve been poor 
and had to do without things, and had to be inventive and 
resourceful, you re better off in a way." She laughed at her 
self. "I sound terribly sanctimonious," she said. "What I 



mean Is that if you interpret the kingdom of God as the 
greater happiness, perhaps there s a lot to that saying." 

Elaine said firmly, "I don t agree with you. I don t care 
about anything so ephemeral. I want the things I ve always 
had. I want my homes and my cars and my servants. I want 
to be comfortable again and to have my children all around 
me, and to protect them. Especially now, when everything 
else is so uncertain. I want to make sure they re all right." 

"But if they re independent, Elaine," Harriet said, 
"they re much more able to take care of themselves, no 
matter what happens. Aren t they? You can t take care of 
them always." 

"I could if we were living in the old way," Elaine said 
stubbornly. "Or at least I think I could. I felt so secure 
then. I m so frightened now, anything frightens me, I don t 
have any props any more." 

She put her elbow on her knee and leaned her chin in her 
hand thoughtfully. Her fine face looked soft as she thought. 
But Harriet watching her got no impression of gentleness. 
The sorrow in her expression was the sorrow of self-pity. 
There was a droop to the corners of her mouth that sug 
gested a whine. 

"When I was a young girl," she told Harriet abruptly, 
"we lived in New York here, on Gramercy Park. One of 
those old brownstone houses, you know. We used to have a 
key to the park and we played out there when we were 
children. My sister always wanted to play with the children 
who weren t allowed in the park, but I didn t. They were 
dirty, and they were so rough. One of the little boys hit my 
sister once, and she laughed and hit him back. I was furious. 
I didn t dare tell my mother, because I was afraid of my sis 
ter, but I wouldn t play with those children any more." 


"Where is your sister?" Harriet asked her gently. 

"She died," Elaine said. She acted as if Harriet s question 
had interrupted some train of thought. "She never got mar 
ried; she was all worked up about woman s suffrage at the 
time. Mr. Randolf used to laugh at her." 

She went on as if the question had not been asked. "We 
used to go up to Stockbridge for the summers," she said. 
"My father had to stay on in the city he was a banker, you 
know but he sent Mother and my sister and myself away, 
and we used to live in a lovely old house. It was something 
like the house in South Wales. That s where I met Mr. Ran 
dolf, up there. He was in my father s bank, and Father 
brought him up for a visit. I think Father wanted me to 
like him; he told me that Mr. Randolf was one of his ablest 
assistants, and that he would go far." 

Harriet remained quiet, afraid to check Elaine, although 
the cake-batter was now mixed and she wanted to get out 
the tins. 

"Everything was so easy for us," Elaine said. "I didn t 
realize that at the time, of course, but I do now when I 
watch you and Joel. Mr. Randolf had some money of his 
own, and my father was right, he did awfully well at the 
bank, he became one of their youngest vice-presidents. We 
bought the house on Sixtieth Street, and then when Kit was 
born we bought the house in South Wales. We didn t 
want to send the children away to camps; in the summer 
we wanted to keep them with us." 

The old worlds she had met in books about New York 
before the war came into Harriet s mind. She thought she 
could guess what kind of life the young Randolfs lived, and 
how secure it was. 

"Even the war didn t bother us," El^ne said. "Mr. Ran- 

122 ]une 1939: 

dolf didn t have to go, of course. Joel was four, and Kit was 
two. We had friends who went over, but I didn t know 
anybody who was killed, and it was all so far away. It 
seemed rather glorious to me. I can t think why." 

Harriet nodded. 

"Then Pris was born," Elaine went on. "We used to have 
so much fun. John, that s Mr. Randolf, was very handsome 
and I was pretty. We had a lot of friends, we liked parties 
and dancing and gaiety. And all the children were so attrac 
tive, we used to be terribly proud of them. I can t actually 
remember ever wanting anything awfully much that I 
couldn t have. I think once I wanted a horse and John was 
feeling a little pinched at the time and wouldn t let me have 
one. Probably that was the time he told me about the rich 
man. But it was only a notion I had, I didn t have my heart 
set on it. Anything else was possible. Good clothes, nice 
homes, servants, good food, the best education for the chil 
dren. We never had to worry about those things." 

She got up suddenly from her stool and came closer to 
Harriet to take hold of her wrist. "Do you see what sort of 
life it was?" she asked her earnestly. "I m trying to give 
you a picture of it. We were so happy. That s what I would 
like to have now. I thought I would always go on that way, 
it never occurred to me that anything like this could hap 
pen to us. I knew people lost their money, but I didn t think 
we would. John thought he was leaving me well provided. 
He thought I would be taken care of for the rest of my life. 
It isn t fair, it isn t right, that these things should happen 

to us." 

She looked frail and pettish. Harriet s sympathy ebbed a 
bit. She had worked into Elaine s mood for a moment, f ol- 


lowing her reminiscence with interest, fascinated by the 
story of a kind of life she had never seen. 

"It all seems to tie in, somehow," Elaine went on relent 
lessly. "I mean our own troubles and the world s. Every 
thing s changing, Harriet, and the old things are collapsing. 
Why can t it keep on a little longer? Just through our 
lifetime? The lifetime of people who were brought up 
like me." 

Harriet felt her lips quirk, not through amusement, but 
through embarrassment at Elaine s inanity. She tried to 
think of something that might be comforting, but she could 
only think of platitudes. 

"Everybody s going through this, Elaine," she said. "It 
affects everybody. But the world has changed before, you 
know, and people have survived. Don t be afraid of it." She 
watched Elaine, troubled by her inability to soothe her. 

"Why shouldn t I be?" Elaine said jerkily. "I m not 
young and adaptable. I never was adaptable. It will kill me, 
even if the rest of you survive." 

There was something so gloomy about her feeling that it 
became big. A minor prophetess might have talked like this. 
She was impressive because she was so despairing. Harriet 
entered into Elaine s mind for one of those seconds of com 
munication that are really complete, and her proportions 
shifted. She saw with fear the human race reduced to a 
smaller scale, millions of small people as tiny as the man 
and the woman on the platform in her dream. Something 
had disturbed them and they were running in terrible con 
fusion. The confusion involved thousands of them who 
hurt themselves by running over each other. 

She paused in her movements and the big apartment 
seemed very quiet. Street noises were far away from them 

124 June 

in their height above the sidewalks. Only the kitchen alarm 
clock made any noise and it was too regular to draw her 
back into her own level of humanity. There was loneliness 
and fear around her, and Elaine seemed a fragile companion 
to it. She wanted to take Elaine s hand, hoping by contact 
to break the moment for both of them. 

Then Pris, in the other room, began to whistle. She car 
ried the tune well, but whatever she was doing evidently 
distracted her, and she left out snatches of the song. Its im 
pudent gaiety was very realistic, and Harriet smiled at the 
sound. It jerked her back into her own scale again. Even 
Elaine went back to her stool suddenly and when she spoke 
it was evident that she had been brought back too. 

"Are you going to make white icing?" she asked. "The 
children love white icing," 


September ig ^-December zpjp 


" took Harriet into the bedroom to show her 
their new rug. She closed the door behind her, shutting out 
anybody who might follow. There was something new 
about her, almost a belligerency. Harriet thought, amused, 
that even if she didn t like the rug, she wouldn t dare say so. 

But it was really lovely. It lay green and thick-matted 
under Kit s handsome new modern furniture and tied the 
room into the picture that Kit must have seen when she 
first started redoing it. The cream candlewick bedspreads 
and the soft blue-green chairs, the little touches of ver 
milion in narrow picture frames and a cushion on the arm 
chair were perfect, and more than that, their perfection had 
not lost them personality. They were as individual as Kit s 
clothes or anything else she bought. 

Harriet touched the crystal bottles on the dressing table 
gently. "It s lovely, Kit," she said. 

"Makes a difference, now that I have a maid, doesn t it?" 
Kit asked. 

Harriet nodded smilingly. It was a well-kept room now, 
and only the scarlet slippers showing beneath the bedspread 
and Kit s white toweling robe hanging on the open bath 
room door showed that it was lived in. 

Kit touched the collar of Harriet s fur jacket. "Let me 
take your wrap," she said. 

Harriet let it go reluctantly. She wished that she had had 
a better dress for Kit s party. It had been a long time since 
she had cared what she wore, but seeing Kit in her new 


iz8 September 193 ^-December 1939: 

black-and-gold-striped taffeta, she was afraid that she might 
not do her justice. This party was evidently important to 
Kit. She looked at her reflection in the dressing-table mir 
ror, seeing her pale, summery dress as too informal and a 
little dowdy. 

"Are you having a lot of people?" she asked Kit. 
"Dozens," Kit said. "A lot of people from the store. My 
boss is coming too." 

"Then you must be excited," Harriet said. "Are any of 
Gray s friends coining?" She had met one or two of them 
and liked them. They made her comfortable, although she 
had not realized it until now, when she hoped they might 
be there. 

"No," Kit said. She frowned. "They re not the right sort 
for this kind of party. They re too stuffy. They wouldn t 
get along with the people from the store." 

"Oh," Harriet said, rather disappointed. She took her 
pocket comb out of her little bag and began to smooth her 
hair. "Your apartment looks so nice, Kit," she said. There 
was something terribly fidgety about Kit tonight which 
wasn t like her. Harriet wanted to be reassuring. 

"It s nice to be able to afford to fix it up," Kit said, look 
ing around her. "I borrowed a little money on the Morris 
plan, and we bought some things on installment. Now that 
I ve got my promotion and my raise, it looks as if I was 
right to do it." 

"You were right, weren t you," Harriet said, smiling at 
her, "when you said that you d be successful." 

Kit sat down on one of the little armchairs. "I didn t 
know how right I was," she told Harriet. "It s almost like 
magic. Everything click-clicks along, I can t make a mis 
take. I wasn t surprised when they made me an assistant 


buyer, and I won t be surprised when I get to be a buyer. 
It s all a trick, and I ve got the hang of it. I m going to be a 
good business woman, Harriet. * 

"I always thought you would be," Harriet told her. She 
thought to herself that Kit was really a Randolf ; she relied 
on intuition even in a field where most people would try to 

"Thanks," Kit said. "Gray thinks I m screwy." She 
stooped to see her face in the mirror. "Do I look all right?" 
she asked Harriet. 

"Lovely," Harriet said, smiling at her. 

"Come on, then," Kit said. "Let s go back into the living 
room. I m afraid Gray and Joel will mess something up if 
we leave them there too long." 

Harriet followed her down the hall into the gray-and- 
gold living room. Joel and Gray were standing beside the 
mantelpiece with drinks in their hands. They looked un 
comfortable, as if they were still remembering Kit s warn 
ing against sitting on the couch before the guests came. 
And Gray looked a little amused. 

Harriet joined them w ? hile Kit went to mix a drink for 

"Where s Elaine and Pris?" Gray asked. "I thought they 
were coming with you." 

"No," Joel said, speaking for Harriet. "Pris got one of 
her young men to take them out to dinner. She broke a 
date with him to come to this party, so she s trying to 
pacify him by letting him buy herself and her mama a good 

Gray laughed, and Kit joined them with Harriet s high 
ball in her hand. "I hope she s not bringing the young man 

130 September 1$ ^-December 1939: 

with her," she said sharply. "Some of Pris s specimens lately 
have been rather unpleasant." 

"You ought to see this one!" Joel said. "Herbert Win 
ters. He s a honey!" 

"Is she bringing him?" Kit asked insistently. 
"No," Joel said casually. "I don t think so." 
The doorbell rang and Harriet saw Blanche, Kit s little 
mulatto maid, go to answer it. Her gray uniform and sheer 
apron and cap harmonized so well with the room that you 
hardly saw her pass through it. 

Kit s hand went jerkily up to her hair and she pulled it 
down again. Harriet watched her sympathetically. She was 
desperately nervous this evening, whatever her principles 
of relaxation might be. This must be terribly important to 
her. In her job, it was probably necessary to have tasteful, 
expensive surroundings. This was the first time she had 
entertained all these people, Harriet knew, so that it was 
like a kind of test. Her career was built on her taste and 
originality, and the party would be a demonstration of 
them. It must be hard, Harriet thought, to have to reflect 
your ability even in your own home. 

The maid came in with the guests, two of them, a man 
and a woman, and Kit rose to greet them. Harriet watched 
from a distance, noticing that the man stayed several steps 
behind the woman and that he was obviously the unimpor 
tant member of the pair. He fussed with the woman s wrap 
and waited for her to speak to Kit first before he spoke 
himself. Kit treated him as he evidently expected to be 
treated. She made one remark to him and then spoke en 
tirely to the woman. He stood by hesitantly while they 
went off to the bedroom, and when Blanche offered to 


take his hat and coat, he jumped as if he had not realized 
she was there. 

There wasn t anything about his appearance that could 
ever be remembered afterwards. His hair was pale and thin, 
he wore eyeglasses, and he was stockily built. Nothing was 
distinctive about him; even when he smiled his face re 
mained nondescript. He w r andered hesitantly towards the 
little group by the fireplace, evidently nervous because he 
had not been introduced. Harriet took pity on him and 
told him her name. "I m Harriet Randolf, Kit s sister-in- 
law," she explained. "And this is Gray Beavers, her hus 
band, and Joel Randolf, Kit s brother." 

The man made a timid little bow. "I m George Stevens," 
he said. 

"Oh," Gray said and then hesitated. "Mrs. Stevens hus 

"Yes," the man said. He lowered his eyes and gave a 
queer little smile as if he were refusing a compliment. Har 
riet had an impulse of pity for him. His wife had been so 
stout and red-headed and domineering. Even the way she 
dressed showed the kind of person she was. Her black dress 
had the kind of unimaginative smartness that marks a cer 
tain kind of tough business woman. Her hair, too, had been 
arranged in an almost ridiculous perfection, and it had been 
a shock to look lower and see her middle-aged face with 
its shrewd, firm lines. Harriet wondered who they were 
and if Kit was fond of them, or if she had asked them for 
business reasons. 

"Mrs. Stevens is Kit s boss," Gray explained to Harriet 
and Joel. Her husband s boss too, Harriet thought. She had 
disliked the woman immediately, even without speaking 
to her. There had been something in the way she had looked 

132 September 193 ^-December 

quickly around the room, taking them all in and dismissing 
them in the same glance, which had been very annoying. 
She had had an arrogant manner, like a person who was 
used to servile people. 

Gray asked Mr. Stevens if he would like a drink and he 
looked at them hesitantly. "Are you all having one?" he 
asked, and then seeing that they were, he said, "I don t 
mind if I do." The phrase was a conventional one, spoken 
without thought, but his manner was really grateful, like 
a man who has been thirsty for a long time. Harriet 
watched them at the bar where Gray mixed the drink and 
asked Mr. Stevens advice about the amount of whiskey. 
She felt sorry for Stevens again, seeing how eagerly his 
hand was poised for the glass, before Gray could even 
finish filling it with soda. 

Kit and Mrs. Stevens came back into the room, making 
a sweep with their long dresses. Mrs. Stevens looked like 
a poor copy of Kit; her clothes were evidently worn to 
imitate the sort of handsome grooming that came naturally 
to Kit, but everything about her seemed fussy and too 
deliberate. Harriet decided that she would like to see her 
in a gingham house apron where she would look more com 
fortable. Her plump body was so rigid in its girdle and 
her large ridge of a breast was like iron in its brassiere. Even 
her face was stiff; there was a coating of foundation cream 
and powder over it that took away all expression. But her 
mouth was thin-lipped and generous lipstick couldn t make 
it anything else. She was a hard, unattractive-looking per 
son. Harriet didn t envy Kit working under her. If ever 
anybody will cut Kit s throat this woman is it, she thought. 
She had a polite smile for all of them, but it was not 
modest, like her husband s. Instead, she gave the impression 



of condescension as if she thought that she was doing them 
a favor by meeting them. She would probably, however, 
be annoyingly effusive if she met somebody whom she 
considered important, Harriet thought. She tried to be 
pleasant for Kit s sake, but she was repulsed by the woman 
and it was difficult. She saw that Gray had the same reac 
tion. He had a blank look which deliberately concealed 
his feelings. Kit seemed annoyed at him. 

"Gray, get Gladys a drink, will you?" she asked him 

He bowed almost formally to her. "What sort would 
you prefer, Mrs. Stevens?" he asked. "Irish, like your hus 

She laughed. "No, thank you," she said with too much 
emphasis, implying that her tastes were never the same as 
her husband s. "Scotch and soda, please." 

She watched Gray for a second as he passed her to get 
the drink and then turned back to Kit. 

"You have a charming little place here, my dear," she 
told her. "Perfectly charming." 

Kit looked around her as if she were seeing the rooms 
for the first time. "Oh, do you like it?" she said. "Gray and 
I are thinking of moving very soon. This neighborhood is 
so disgraceful." 

"That s the first I ve heard of it," Gray said, coining back 
with Mrs. Stevens drink. He handed it to her without tak 
ing his look from Kit. Kit frowned. "You know we ve dis 
cussed it, dear," she said. "Let s not talk about it now." 

Their irritation passed like a bridge over Mrs. Stevens 
head, and Harriet was angered by seeing Mrs. Stevens half- 
smile to herself, as if she were aware of the friction and 
approved of it. Something in her manner implied that all 

134 September 193 ^-December 

husbands and wives disagreed, that it was a great law of 
human nature and an amusing one. 

Joel said to Mrs. Stevens, "I understand you re the buyer 
in Kit s department, Mrs. Stevens." 

She smiled up at him and made a little motion beside 
her on the couch with her plump hand. He obeyed her and 
went over to sit down. 

"Yes," she said. "And I can t tell you how pleasant it 
is having Kit with me. My dear, I had the most atrocious 
young assistant last year. No taste, no manners. Kit is such 
a pleasant change. She has such breeding." 

Gray and Harriet looked at each other involuntarily and 
to conceal her smile Harriet went over behind the couch. 
She noticed that Mrs. Stevens watched her pass by with 
out lifting her eyes, but with real attention. She wondered 
why until she saw Mr. Stevens standing there. Then she 
was annoyed, thinking to herself, she ignores poor George, 
but she probably never lets him get out of her sight with 
another woman. 

Mr. Stevens smiled at her timidly. "Did I understand 
you to say you re Kit s sister-in-law?" he asked her. "You 
must be Mr. Randolf s wife then." He nodded at Joel to 
indicate whom he meant. 

"Yes," she said. "Kit has a large family. Some of the 
rest of them will be arriving later." 

"Oh, there are more?" Mr. Stevens asked her. 
"Her mother and another sister," she said. 
They talked in conventionalities and with only half their 
attention. Mr. Stevens was obviously watching his wife, 
whose back was towards them, and Harriet was watching 
Joel. She wondered if he were putting on a good show or 
if he really liked Gladys Stevens. He was talking to her 


very attentively, his head bent towards her. She noticed, 
too, that he was drinking a good deal. Gray, who wandered 
around without talking to anybody, filled his glass a third 
time within the hour that they had been there. 

The maid came in with a tray of little canapes and while 
she was passing them the doorbell rang again. Kit turned 
her head around and waved at Gray. "Get it, will you, 
dear," she said impatiently, seeing that he hadn t moved. 
"Blanche is busy." 

He went silently to the door and opened it, bringing in 
a new batch of guests, five of them this time, three men 
and two women. There was a rush of voices as Kit stood 
up to greet them and as they came into the room in front 
of Gray. Harriet noticed that Mrs. Stevens kept her seat 
on the couch without even turning her head, so that they 
had to come around in front of her to speak to her. From 
the eager way in which they did it, she guessed that they 
were all of them Mrs. Stevens inferiors in the store. 

With their arrival, Harriet lost some of her sense of 
detail and she no longer followed every look of the peo 
ple around her. She began to talk to Mr. Stevens more at 
tentively and she saw that he, perhaps emboldened by a 
second drink, was becoming alert too. Nobody interrupted 
them. People passed them on the way to the bar to get 
drinks, and once in a while Gray stood beside them for a 
few seconds, but he said nothing to them and he was obvi 
ously distracted. 

The party had really begun. Mrs. Stevens held her court 
on the couch and there w r ere always one or two people 
there, but as the party grew, other groups were formed in 
the room. The doorbell began ringing steadily now and 

136 September 1$ ^-December 

Blanche went back and forth to answer it, interrupting her 
trips with drinks or food. 

Harriet didn t know anybody. Probably because of that, 
they looked so alike to her that she was sometimes con 
fused. All of the women wore black or dark colors, most 
of them were too plump, they were all a good deal older 
than Kit. The men were either quiet, like Mr. Stevens, or 
very noisy. The noisy ones drank a lot and were extremely 
hearty. Harriet noticed that a great many of them were 
not native New Yorkers. Their accents spotted them from 
various parts of the Middle West and a few from the South. 
In the case of the women, though, the accent was overlaid 
by a new accent, one which she had seldom heard before. 
There was something very refined about it, and very vulgar. 
It was aggravating to see Kit in the middle of them, laugh 
ing and obviously happy. She was so outstanding among 

Harriet finished her drink and shifted from one foot to 
the other. She was growing tired of standing there. Mr. 
Stevens was telling her a long story about a fishing trip. 
She listened, not because the story was good, but because 
there was something so revealing about the way he grew 
enthusiastic, then recalled himself and lowered his voice, 
and then grew enthusiastic again. Out of the corner of 
her eye she saw Mrs. Stevens turn jerkily once or twice to 
look at them. Finally she got up clumsily, like a big animal 
rising from its wallow. She said something to Joel, waving 
her highball glass at him and raised a hand to keep him 
from getting up too. Harriet saw her coming near them 
and realized that it was not a drink she wanted so much as 
to see what her husband was doing. 

"Hello, Mrs. Randolf," she said over her shoulder to 



Harriet while she was filling the glass. "It s nice of you 
to entertain George. George doesn t get on with the people 
from the store. He says he doesn t know what they re talk 
ing about. I don t know why; he hears me talk shop often 

"It does sound like rather a strange language," Harriet 
said. She had heard phrases all around her that were mean 

"Oh, now, dear, you know any woman would under 
stand it," Mrs. Stevens said, moving over to join them. "It s 
just dress talk, that s all. But George has never learned a 
thing about clothes. He wouldn t know what I had on if 
I didn t say anything about it. Is your husband that way, 
dear? That s a sweet dress you have on. Where did you get 
it, if I may ask?" 

"Oh, I had this made," Harriet said, looking down at it. 
"It s an old dress, I m afraid." She recognized the term 
"sweet" as a condescending one. 

"Your husband is such a charming man," Mrs. Stevens 
said. "He s Kit s brother, isn t he? He s like Kit, I think. 
Both of them so charming." 

Mr. Stevens spoke up. "Mrs. Randolf says that Kit has a 
mother and sister who are coming too," he told his wife. She 
nodded, hardly bothering to notice him. 

"Kit has a large family," she said, to show him she knew 
all about it. "Your husband s in advertising, isn t he?" she 
asked Harriet. Harriet barely managed to nod before she 
went on. "I know several people in advertising," she said. 
"It s a nice job. So pleasant and leisurely. Honestly, my 
dear, they don t know what work is." She put her hand 
up to her hair, smoothing some unseen strand behind her 

138 September 193 ^-December 2939: 

Harriet told her, "He likes it." 

"Heavens," Mrs. Stevens said. "I d like something like 
that. How I have to work. You know, sometimes I think 
I ll go mad. George worries about me, I have to work so 
hard. I bring things home at night, and we have to cancel 
so many engagements. I think George would rather I gave 
the whole thing up, but I m not happy unless I have some 
thing to do. Do you work, dear?" 

"No," Harriet told her. "I keep house." 

"Oh, yes, that s nice," Mrs. Stevens said. She reminded 
Harriet of an overbearing type of salesgirl. There ought 
to be a fitting-room manner as well as a bedside manner, 
she thought, smiling to herself. 

Mrs. Stevens caught the smile and disliked it, evidently. 
"You don t get bored with staying at home, I suppose," she 
asked. She went on without waiting for an answer. "I just 
have too much energy, I guess. It s not strength so much, 
just energy. It keeps me going continually. I couldn t be 
happy unless I was busy. Sometimes I wish I were the sort 
that could just stay quietly at home." 

"I enjoy it," Harriet said. "It s work of a sort." Then 
she felt angry at herself for being put on the defensive. 
Mrs. Stevens had a peculiarly annoying way of talking on 
ingenuously and getting in little digs now and again. Her 
hard eyes stared at Harriet, making her feel young and 

The questions that she continued to ask were shrewd 
ones, Harriet thought, about her family and their way of 
living, and Harriet tried to answer them civilly. But she 
disliked the woman intensely and out of self-protection she 
tried to see her as amusing. Her attention went to the part 
in Mrs. Stevens hair and she saw the little dark line there 


which indicated It had been dyed. Unconsciously, she 
smiled and Mrs. Stevens saw it again. She broke off into a 
second of silence this time, before she commanded her 
face. Harriet \vas appalled to think she might have revealed 
herself. She hadn t wanted to offend her, and besides, she 
hated to have the woman think she was being rude about 
something as personal and unimportant as her dyed hair, 
when it was actually the really unpleasant, hard things 
about her that she disliked. 

They talked warily after that, and Harriet was relieved 
when Mrs. Stevens turned to her husband finally. "George," 
she said. "Will you come with me and meet Marge Patten, 
you know I ve told you about her. You ll excuse us, Mrs. 
Randolf." She smiled sweetly at Harriet. "I want George 
to meet this girl." 

"Of course," Harriet said. She was a little amused. Prob 
ably this long, tiring conversation had simply been a pre 
liminary to getting George away. Poor George, he would 
be pleased if he knew his wife had been battling for him. 
But he had followed her so dully, blinking a little bit and 
holding tightly to his glass, that Harriet knew he hadn t 
realized it. She waited until they had gone, and joined 
Gray at the liquor table. She was tired of being polite and 
she \vanted his comfort. 

"Whew!" he said, looking down at her. "Have a drink?" 

"Thanks," she said, holding out her empty glass to be 
refilled. He said something else to her but just then she 
saw Blanche passing a tray of mixed highballs to Joel, who 
helped himself to one, putting his emptied glass in its place. 
It distracted her from both Mrs. Stevens and Gray. With 
out paying much attention, she answered, smilingly, some 
thing Gray said. Why was Joel drinking so much this 

140 September 193 ^-December 

evening, she wondered. He had had one drink after another 
without stopping. 

"Excuse me a second," Gray said. "There s the door 
bell." She realized then that he had been talking to her 
still, and she followed him with her eyes as he went out into 
the little foyer. 

It was Pris and Elaine whom he let in. Harriet, watching 
the door, saw them and went over to say hello. She was 
delighted to see them, they looked so familiar and pleasant 
in the midst of all these strangers. Kit came up too, still 
talking over her shoulder to the man with whom she had 
been sitting. 

"Hello, dears," she said, holding out her hand to them. 
She was flushed now, but her manner was easy again. The 
nervousness evidently had passed and had given place to 
an excitement which carried her still higher but more 
evenly. "What have you been doing all this time?" she 
asked. "Harriet, be a lamb, will you, and take them in the 
bedroom to leave their wraps. Fm right in the middle of 
a good story about old Mr. Considine." 

Elaine smiled at her gently and confusedly. "Go ahead, 
Kit," she said. "We know w r here the bedroom is; Harriet 
doesn t have to bother." 

Harriet went with them, however, and sat on the dress 
ing-table stool while they took off their coats and powdered 
their noses. She thought to herself that they would really 
do Kit justice. Even though their clothes were not very 
new, they had once been expensive and they were chosen 
with real taste, not the sort of mass instinct that gowned 
all the women outside. 

Pris said, "I want a drink first thing. What a lot of people 
I never saw before!" 


"Are these all Kit s business friends?" Elaine asked Har 
riet. "Aren t they strange looking?" 

"They re quite a bunch," Harriet said, smiling. She ush 
ered them before her into the living room and Gray came 
to meet them with a highball in each hand. "Drink it 
down," he told them. "It s the only way you ll get along." 

"Where s Joel?" Elaine said, looking around her. 

They saw Joel in a corner of the room with Gladys 
Stevens. He was facing them but he was looking down at 
Mrs. Stevens attentively and they couldn t attract him. Mrs. 
Stevens was talking and her gold earrings shook and caught 
the light as she moved. She was using both hands for her 
gestures, but every now and then her right hand relaxed 
and settled on Joel s arm as if to hold him there. 
Elaine waved her handkerchief and the flash of white 
must have caught Joel s eye, because he looked up. Rec 
ognizing them, he smiled and beckoned. Harriet followed 
Elaine as she went over towards him, curious to see whether 
Joel was really being entertained or just polite. Perhaps if 
he was having a hard time she could rescue him in some 

"Mrs. Stevens, this is my mother," Joel introduced 
Elaine. "This is Kit s buyer, Elaine. She s been talking 
about Kit. It would do your heart good." 

"Oh, yes, Mrs. Randolf," Mrs. Stevens said. "Such a 
lovely girl your daughter is. And so bright. Smart as a 
whip. It s a pleasure to work with her." 

Her manner with Elaine was not patronizing as it had 
been with Harriet. Perhaps something about Elaine s fine 
face and her handsome, dark-green dress impressed her. 
As Harriet had suspected, however, effusiveness was even 
less becoming to her than haughtiness. 

142 September ly^y-December 

"I m very glad," Elaine murmured gently. She turned to 
Joel almost as if she had dismissed Mrs. Stevens. "Joel, 
dear," she said. "Kit seems to be busy, won t you introduce 
Pris to some of these people?" 

Mrs. Stevens looked disconcerted as Joel nodded and 
went off, but she renewed her vivacity in a second and 
fastened on Elaine. "You must be proud of such a hand 
some family, Mrs. Randolf," she told her. "All so nice 

Elaine looked around at her various children. "Yes," she 
said, as if she were discovering it for the first time. "They 
are nice looking, aren t they? I imagine it s because they re 
all so healthy. And I always had their teeth straightened 
and things." 

Her manner was charming and completely impersonal. 
Harriet felt maliciously pleased, because she could see that 
Mrs. Stevens was aware of it and was trying to win her 
interest. She was not in the least an insensitive woman, al 
though her way of talking gave that impression. She would 
try very hard to make Elaine like her, but she probably 
wouldn t succeed, because there was a gentle unconscious 
ness about Elaine that would never become the warmth 
Mrs. Stevens wanted. They talked about Kit at some length 
while Harriet stood by silently. Mrs. Stevens had looked 
at her coldly when she first appeared and after a while 
Harriet saw that it would be all right just to drift off. As 
she left, she heard Mrs. Stevens saying to Elaine, "It s hard 
to believe Kit has never worked before." 

She was rather depressed. She hated to see the Randolfs 
among these people. She didn t like the thought that they 
were being admired not for any genuine qualities but for 
their superficial ones, their ease and their good looks and 


their smart clothes. Look, for instance, at Gray, who was 
now standing over at the bar being neglected. That was 
because he was shabby and a little stooped and rather quiet. 
But anybody with any real sensitivity liked Gray. 

Before she could get to the bar, Kit came up to Gray 
and Harriet saw him say something to her in a low voice. 

Kit jerked her head up as if he had slapped her. "I can 
see Mother and Pris every day/ Harriet heard her say. 
"But I can t be nursing them along at this party. Why can t 
you get it through your head that the party means a lot 
to me?" 

Harriet checked herself, embarrassed and afraid to join 
them, but Kit saw her then and held out a hand for her. 
"Come on, Harriet," she said. "Talk to Gray, he s being 
such a pest." 

Gray said, paying no attention to Harriet, "Eat, this is 
very rude of you." 

Kit held firmly onto Harriet s hand so that she couldn t 
leave them. "I don t know why you should talk about 
rudeness," she said. "The way you ve been snubbing my 
guests all evening. You haven t talked to anybody but Har 
riet and now Pris. You re a fine one!" 

"I don t know what to say to them," Gray said. "They 
all talk about Paris and what the war is doing to fashions, 
and honestly, Kit, you ve got enough sense of proportion 
to see that that s a little more than a person can reasonably 
be expected to take. What the war s doing to fashions! 
Oh, my dear, did you hear Schiaparelli has moved down 
to the South of France," he mimicked. The bitterness in 
his tone was not for Kit, Harriet realized, but she took it 
that way. 

She said in a low, violent voice, "They may not be little 

144 September 2$ ^-December 

embryo professors, but they re the people that I work with 
and they re doing their job just like anybody else. Please 
have the decency to be courteous to them." She let Har 
riet s hand drop abruptly and moved off. Harriet turned 
compassionately to Gray. 

"Shop talk is always hard," she said. "It s so impossible 
to take any part in it. But this is really interesting, Gray. 
I like listening to it." 

Gray said sulkily, "I would, too, if my wife weren t 
involved. But I can t stand to see Kit acting like a damn 

He took Harriet s arm and started to walk away with 
her before she could say anything else. "Pris is getting along 
all right, I guess," he said. "It was foolish of me to worry 
about her." 

They joined Pris, who was talking to a thin, large-eyed 
young girl in one comer. The girl was tight, Harriet re 
alized, as soon as she heard her first words. "Gladys is won 
derful!" she was saying. She was gazing earnestly into 
Pris s face. Pris held her chin up a little, as if she were try 
ing to get away from her look. "Gladys is wonderful!" 
she went on. "Nobody s as smart as Gladys. She has a flair. 
That s the word. A real flair. Do you know what I mean? 
A flair." 

"Yes, I see what you mean," Pris said solemnly. She 
winked at Harriet. The girl was looking down at her drink 
now, still earnestly, and missed the wink. "A flair," Pris 

"I want to be like her/ the girl said, jerking her head 
up suddenly. She saw Harriet and Gray and stared at them 
blankly for a second, as if they had robbed her of what 
she was going to say. Then she went on. "I want to be 


smart and hard-boiled." She looked around her secretively. 
"She is hard-boiled, you know." 

"Do you think you could be?" Pris asked disinterestedly. 
She was hardly polite. 

"No," the girl said sadly. "I just don t seem to have her 
ability. I just don t have it. Now Kit, your sister, she has 
it. She s not like Gladys, cause Gladys worked her way 
up and she had to learn everything she knows. Kit was 
brought up with good clothes and smart people. She didn t 
have to learn it. But she s good too. I wasn t surprised when 
they made Kit assistant buyer. Even though I ve been in 
the department for two years more than she has. I wasn t 

Harriet felt suddenly sorry for the girl. Evidently she 
had expected the position herself and that was why she 
was drinking so much now. 

She said soothingly, "You look very young to me, per 
haps that s been the trouble. In another year or so you ll 
probably be an assistant buyer too." 

"By that rime Kit will be a buyer," the girl said savagely, 
and then her voice smoothed down and she looked implor 
ingly at Harriet. "You think so?" she asked. 

"Of course," Harriet said. Gray came around to the other 
side of the group and flanked the girl s other elbow. Har 
riet could tell from his expression that he was concerned 
for her too. 

"Excuse me, n Pris said to all of them. "I want to meet 
Mrs. Stevens. Kit said she d introduce me." She left them 
abruptly, but evidently the girl hadn t noticed that she 
had gone. She had caught hold of Harriet s arm now, and 
was saying, "Maybe you re right. I don t know. Maybe 
you re right." 

146 September ig^-December 1939: 

Gray said to her, "Wouldn t you like some coffee? I m 
going out to make myself some. I wish you d come out and 
help me; I m not quite sure I know how to do it." 

The girl looked at him suspiciously. "You think Fm 
tight, don t you?" she asked him. Then again her defenses 
crumpled pathetically. "Maybe I am," she said, shaking 
her head. "I ve had an awful lot." 

"I don t think so at all," Gray said, taking her arm. "But 
I would like you to help me." 

She looked at him eagerly. "Would you?" she asked. 

She let him lead her away towards the kitchen, and he 

looked back past her and nodded at Harriet, who smiled. 

Kit, standing in a little group with Mrs. Stevens, Elaine 

and Pris, waved to Harriet to join them. 

"What s Gray doing with Cassie?" she asked her. 
"They ve gone to make some coifee," Harriet said. 
"Gray seemed to want some." She didn t like to mention 
Cassie s state in front of Mrs. Stevens. 

"Honestly!" Kit said in exasperation. "Why can t that 
girl hold her liquor! She s as boiled as an owl. I ve been 
watching her. It s so disgusting." 

"Cassie drunk?" Mrs. Stevens said, turning sharply to 
look after her. "That child has so little character. It s too 

Harriet felt sick for the girl; she suspected that she would 
never get her promotion now. 

"Young people don t seem to know how to drink as well 
as they used to," Elaine said mildly. "I don t understand 
it, because they all drink so much more. They start 
younger, too. You d think they d learn to hold it. Look at 
Joel, Harriet. He s had too much. I ve rarely ever seen him 
that way." 


They turned to watch Joel, who was bending over a 
woman across the room. His highly colored face, and the 
way he was poised as if the smallest blow would knock 
him over, showed that he had been drinking a lot. 

Mrs. Stevens said, \vith her mouth drawn together into 
a smile, "Oh, well, I think it makes a difference with men, 
don t you, Mrs. Randolf?" 

"I suppose so," Elaine said carelessly. Harriet was amused 
to see Kit half open her mouth to speak and then check 
herself. Ordinarily she could never have resisted such a 

The party lasted late. Kit had an impressive amount of 
liquor on hand and at about twelve-thirty Blanche served 
sandwiches and coffee. All of the people there drank too 
much, and Harriet, now that she had begun to know some 
of them, suddenly grew interested in the way they drifted 
towards each other. During the first part of the evening 
the women had banded together and the men had kept 
themselves separate. Now they were beginning to pair off, 
each man with some other man s wife. It w r as like a clock 
work pattern, it moved so mechanically. Harriet supposed 
that all their parties were the same way, they went about 
it as if it were routine. 

There was very little general talk. At first they had 
talked shop and everybody had joined in. But when they 
split up in groups they began talking in personalities. Har 
riet, as she passed among them, heard a great deal of dis 
cussion of Mrs. Stevens, or old Mr. Considine, who seemed 
to be a sort of mythical character, of this or that person 
in the store. None of it was friendly; she was shocked some 
times at its maliciousness. She heard nothing about Kit, but 
she suspected that it was because she scared them off that 

148 September 193 ^-December 

subject. Once, when she joined Cassie and a strange young 
man, she saw the man take hold of Cassie s hand warningly, 
and Cassie stopped in the middle of a sentence to smile at 
her rather self-consciously. This is a cut-throat crew, she 

Very late in the evening, Joel came over to her and put 
his arm around her shoulders. "Having a good time, dar 
ling?" he asked her. He had hardly spoken to her all eve 

She smiled at him affectionately. "Yes," she said. "I 
like it. I feel a little out of it, though. All these people know 
each other so well." 

Joel said carelessly, "You re not so good at mixing, you 
never are. I think they re very easy to get along with." 
His drinking hadn t changed him much, except that he 
seemed absent-minded. As he stood there with his arm 
around her shoulder he kept looking around him, watching 
the various people in the room. "I m having a wonderful 
time," he told her. She had been wanting to suggest that 
they go home, but she didn t like to as long as he was 
enjoying it. She let him walk her over to Pris and Elaine, 
who w^ere sitting on the couch with two strange men 
around them, and let him desert her again. She could wait 
it out, she decided. She noticed that even Pris and Elaine 
were drawn into the party now; they were talking ani 
matedly and evidently having a good time. 

Later she found herself with Mr. Stevens again, and 
listened to a sort of outpouring of his troubles with Gladys. 
He was quite drunk and pathetically roundabout in his 
methods. Each sentence started with "Gladys is a wonder 
ful woman," and ended with something derogatory. "She 
makes more money than I do," he would say, "and I sup- 


pose it s natural that she should think she s the most im 
portant member of the family." Or, "We don t have any 
children. I rather wish we did, but Gladys doesn t want 
to give up her job." Harriet was sorry for him, but she 
didn t know \vhat to say to such half-hearted accusations. 
She was glad when Gladys finally rounded him up, put 
ting her hand on his arm and telling Harriet with her cold 
simper that it was sweet of her to keep him company. 

She watched them leave. Kit was making a great to-do 
and fuss over them, but as soon as they had gone, her high 
spirits faded. There were only a few other guests still there, 
and there didn t seem to be enough energy left in Kit to 
keep up her gaiety. They felt it, perhaps, because they 
started to go soon afterwards. All of this party was for 
that woman, Harriet thought; Kit is frantic to impress her. 
She doesn t mind in the least sacrificing Gray or any of 
the rest of us as long as Gladys was pleased. 

She watched the slow preparations for departure as the 
guests went. Gray took over Kit s duties and found their 
wraps for them, took them to the door and received their 
thanks. Now, when he was needed, he was pleasant and 
friendly, and it was fortunate that he was, because Kit was 
neglecting them outrageously. 

Within half an hour the last of them had said good-bye. 
Only the Randolfs had stayed behind, and Kit sat down 
on the couch and swTing her feet up wearily as the last 
person went out. "I m exhausted," she said. 

Gray, coming back from the door, looked down at her. 
"No wonder," he said. "You ve been spinning like a top 
all evening." 

"I noticed you were pretty active too," Kit said sweetly. 
"Thanks for taking care of the drunks, darling." 

150 September lyjp-December 

They looked at each other angrily, not bothering to 
hide their irritation from the others. There was a sharpness 
in their voices which showed they had been cherishing a 
grievance against each other all evening. Only Elaine 
seemed not to see it; she interrupted them. "Kit, dear," she 
said. "It was a nice party, but we ve simply got to be 

"All right, Elaine," Kit said. She relaxed against the arm 
of the couch again, as if Elaine had taken the fight out of 
her. "Excuse me if I don t stand up, will you, dear? I m 
glad you all could come." 

Gray said almost fleetingly, "You are tired, aren t you?" 
His voice and expression had gentled, and Harriet was 
relieved to see Kit look up at him gratefully. "Worn to the 
bone," she said. She put her hand up and Gray took it. He 
stood holding it behind his back while he turned to say 
good-bye to Elaine. 

"I think your apartment looks so lovely," she told him. 
He smiled politely and rather disinterestedly. "I m afraid 
I had very little to do with it," he said. Harriet felt that 
all his thoughts and attention were centered on Kit, whose 
hand he was holding, and whose head rested against his 

She wished that Joel would hurry with their wraps. She 
could hear him coming down the hall and saying something 
to Blanche to make her giggle, and it seemed to her that 
he was taking a long time. If only they could get away 
quickly now and leave Kit and Gray alone before some 
new irritation would burst out all over again. Joel came 
finally, carrying the wraps wadded in a lump, and threw 
them all on the couch to be sorted out. Kit lay back with 
her eyes half closed, watching them prepare to leave. 


"Good-bye, darlings," she said as they went towards 
the door. "See you all tomorrow at Sunday dinner, won t 

Elaine nodded. "Come early, Kit," she said. "Good-bye, 
Gray, it was a lovely party." 

"I m glad you think so," he told her. He went to the 
door with them, still smiling. There was both unhappiness 
and mockery in his face as he looked at Harriet past Elaine s 



The party had tired all of them and there w r as something 
limp about the Sunday meal. Conversation went slowly and 
pointlessly, and after lunch most of them disappeared. 
Elaine and Kit went to lie down, and Pris, after helping 
Harriet for a few minutes with the dishes, went back to 
her own room. Only Joel and Gray stayed in the living 
room, talking. 

It was a long afternoon. It had been raining and the sky 
was just beginning to clear at the edges. Overhead it was 
still gray so that the light was dim in the living room. They 
had not turned on the lamps and it was like a sort of twi 
light in there with the two men. When Harriet joined them 
she felt oppressed, not being able to see their faces clearly. 
They were discussing Gray s future. He had nearly got 
his degree and was already looking around for a teaching 
job. Unfortunately, he was saying to Joel, even if he found 
one, he would not be able to start work until the next year. 

"Kit s doing so well," Harriet said. "There doesn t seem 
to be any reason why you should worry about that." 

Gray turned to look at her, but he was sitting with what 
light there was betiind him, and his face was completely 
dark. "Kit s done enough already," he said. "I want to 

i5 2 September 193 ^-December 

start contributing my share." His voice might have come 
from anywhere in that corner of the room. It had no rela 
tion to his body, since he made no gesture to go with it. 
It gave Harriet a strange feeling that he was being oracular. 
She remembered when Kit had first started looking for 
work and Gray had said much the same sort of thing. Then 
she had thought of the protest as unimportant, but she was 
impressed by it now. She felt he was right, he should start 
doing something soon. She was embarrassed that she 
couldn t honestly contradict him, and had to let his sentence 
drop without answer to it. 

Joel moved a little and took out a cigarette. The flame 
of his match showed her his face for a moment and she 
realized for the first time that he looked older. His face 
had always been lean, but there had been a kind of softness 
of flesh over the bones, a curve over the little projections 
that they made. Now every bone was angular, and in the 
match flame shadows brought out their outlines. She smiled 
across at him and thought he winked back, but she couldn t 
be sure. 

"Why don t we aU have a drink?" Joel said. "The ladies 
seem to have deserted us for good. It s five o clock already." 
Harriet felt no desire for one but when Gray agreed 
she got up to get out ice and glasses. When she came back 
into the living room with a tray, Pris had joined them and 
turned on the lights. She looked fresh. She had probably 
been taking a bath, and she was wearing one of her best 
dresses. It was black and had been bought to make her look 
mature, but it made you more aware of her round, childish 
face with its pink skin. 

"Oh," she said, "a drink, that s good. I need one, sort 


"What are you up to?" Joel asked her. 

"I have a new beau," Pris told him, "and I want to be 
my girlish best." 

"Somebody nice?" Harriet asked her. 

"I don t know," Pris said. "I think Elaine would approve 
of him." 

"You sound rather dubious yourself," Joel said. 

"I don t know him very well, that s all," Pris told him. 
"And he s kind of young and callow." 

Joel and Gray laughed. "Get a glass of milk ready for 
him, Harriet," Joel said. "He ll probably arrive in diapers." 

"Leave me alone, will you?" Pris said, smiling at him. 
She seemed very easy and calm, and Harriet had the im 
pression that she had made some kind of decision which 
allowed her to relax. Joel and Gray began to tease her and 
they could get no response out of her. Her answers were 
light and untouched, and she didn t attempt to hit back. 
Harriet enjoyed listening to them; it was a sort of pleas 
antry she had missed for some time. Gradually the room 
began to liven up. It was as if they had all been sleeping 
and were now stretching and gathering energy. The tempo 
of their speech increased and they made more gestures and 
moved around more. The lights helped the effect. 

Elaine and Kit came in together with their arms around 
each other s waists. 

"Oh, look, a drink," Kit said. She looked fresh and wide 
awake. She went over to the tray and mixed herself a 
highball, splashing the soda carelessly into her glass so that 
it flowed over the side, and caught it with a swipe of her 
finger which she sucked. "Want one, Elaine?" she asked 
over her shoulder. 

"Thanks, dear, I think I do," Elaine told her. She sat 

154 September 193 ^- December 293$: 

down on the couch by Joel and smiled at him happily. 
"That nap made a difference," she said. "I feel much 

"Good," Joel said. He patted her knee affectionately. 
"You look like a new woman." 

"You re all dressed up, Pris," Elaine said, her look shift 
ing to Pris, who was sitting on the piano stool with her 
knees crossed. "Are you going out?" 

"Yes," Pris said. "For dinner. But I asked my young man 
in for a drink first. Hope you don t mind." 

"He s not that awful Herbert Winters, is he?" Elaine 

"No," Pris told her. "This is a young man you ll just 
adore. He s the creme de la creme of Long Island. Has the 
most aristocratic family. You ll love him." 

"God!" Joel said heartily. "Sounds worse and worse. 
Who is he, Pris?" 

"His name is Kenneth Tryson, if that means anything 
to you," Pris said casually. She finished the last of her 
drink, letting the ice slide down her glass to hit her teeth 
and then fall back again when she put it down. 

"It s nice that he has a good family," Elaine said, 
wrinkling her forehead a little bit, "but I hope he isn t one 
of those young degenerates, dear. You know, the inbred 


They laughed at her, Pris joining them, but she answered 
before the others had finished. "He hasn t got much of a 
chin," she told Elaine, "but he s full of good, red blood, 
and I haven t heard any rumors of incest in his family, if 
that s what you mean." 

"Oh, no," Elaine said in horror. "Just first cousins or 
something like that. That s all I meant." 


"Is he the cafe-society type?" Gray asked with an air 
of such academic interest that they laughed again. 

"I don t know about that either," Pris said. "Although 
he s taking me to dinner at Twenty-One." 

"That sounds nice," Elaine said complacently. "You ll 
get a very good dinner, dear." 

"I m getting more and more curious," Kit said. "Where d 
you snag him, Pris? Has he got any sisters or mothers or 
things that might want to buy their dresses at Consi- 
dine s?" 

"Listen," Pris said. "You lay off him. You can get your 
commissions later. When we re married." 

"Married!" Elaine said. "Ho\v long have you known 

"Oh, I ve met him once or twice before," Pris said care 
lessly. "This is the first time I ve been out with him. Fm 
just talking about the future, Elaine. We haven t reached 
any agreement yet." 

"Oh," Elaine said. "You frightened me. You do talk such 
nonsense, Pris." 

"Come on," Kit said, still eagerly. "Where d you meet 

"He was introduced to me, strangely enough," Pris said, 
"by my good friend, Herbie Winters, whom all of you 
love so dearly. We met at a party given by a friend of 
Herbie s. Then we met again the other night at the Stork 
Club. And he asked me for a dance, and he joined us at 
our table, since he was alone. And, of course, with a little 
attention from me and the proper amount of digging, he 
asked me to dinner. It was hard \vork, but it was worth it." 

"My God," Joel said. "The poor man. You ve certainly 
got your hooks in him, Pris." 

156 September 193 ^-December 

Pris looked down at her pointed pink finger-nails com 
placently. "I m doing my best," she assured him. 

"Hadn t we better mix some cocktails?" Harriet asked 
her. "Since you asked him up for a drink?" 

"Oh, yes," Pris said. "I forgot to tell you, I bought some 
vermouth. Wait, I ll get it." 

She got up hastily and ran down the hall, her high heels 
hitting the hardwood floors with sharp clacks, interrupted 
every now and then w r hen they touched one of the little 
scatter rugs. 

Kit went over to the mirror hanging on the wall and 
began to finger her hair. "Sounds like Pris has got a good 
thing," she said. 

"She s not really serious, is she?" Gray asked her. "About 
marrying him, I mean." 

"Who can tell?" Kit said. "Pris is an unfathomable 

"But it would be rather horrible if it were true," Gray 

"Don t be so solemn, Gray," Kit said, coming back and 
sitting on the arm of his chair. "She certainly isn t going 
to do anything foolish if I know Pris. And anyway, the 
young man doesn t sound any too eager." 

Joel got up and went over to fix himself another drink. 
He poured a heavy measure of whiskey in the bottom 
of his glass and added very little soda. "What I love about 
my sisters," he said, not speaking to anybody in particular, 
"is that they re all so practical." 

"What I love about my brother," Kit said sharply, "is" 
She stopped whatever she was going to say and said instead, 
"Haven t you been drowning your sorrows in drink a good 


deal lately, Joel? Seems to me you were hitting it pretty 
hard last night." 

"For the love of mud!" Joel said, and then commanded 
himself and grinned. "Hair of the dog," he told her. 

Why am I always so afraid they ll quarrel nowadays, 
Harriet thought. They ve always said rude things to each 
other, but they ve never seemed to mind it. They seem to 
attack more vulnerable points now. Maybe they have more 
points that are vulnerable. 

Pris came back, carrying the bottle of vermouth and 
trying to unwrap the tinfoil from its neck. She looked 
up at them as if she had not expected to see them there. 

"By the way," she said, putting the bottle down on the 
drink tray, "I hope you ll all do me credit with Kenneth. 
Be your most charming, won t you?" 

Elaine looked down at her gray velveteen housecoat. 
"Oh, dear," she said. "I wonder if I should put on a dress. 
Is this all right, Pris?" 

"Oh, sure," Pris said, looking her over. "I want it to seem 
casual, you know. I d hate to have you all sitting around 
looking dressed-up." 

Elaine stood up. "Fll just put on a little lipstick, though," 
she said. Her skirt swept the floor as she walked across 
the living room, and Harriet thought she looked tired. She 
slumped a little, and it was odd to see Elaine slump when 
you thought of uprightness as part of her appearance. 

"I hope to God Elaine doesn t make any of her breaks," 
Pris said, looking after her. 

"Listen, darling," Kit said. "You ought to know Elaine 
well enough by now to know that she doesn t make any 
breaks except on purpose. She ll behave, don t worry." 

158 September 193 ^-December 

"Say, you re giving me the jitters," Joel said. "What has 
this young man got that we haven t got?" 

"Money," Pris said. It came out so swiftly that Harriet 
suspected it was involuntary. "If you want to know," she 
added defiantly. 

"But Pris," Joel said laughingly. "How crass. Haven t 
you heard? All is not gold that glitters?" 

"That s right," Pris said curtly. "But what Kenneth has 
isn t sequins." 

"Boy!" Joel said. "What a hard-boiled little cuss you re 
turning out to be." 

"The four-minute egg, they call me," Pris said. She still 
looked defiant, but Harriet thought that she was uncom 
fortable. She wished they would stop teasing her. They 
still treated her as if she were a child, she thought. They 
would be worried if they thought she was serious, so they 
laughed at her, and maybe in doing that they were driving 
her to the very things she joked about. 

Elaine came back, looking around for their approval. 
In the yellow lamplight she was soft and pretty and the 
gray velveteen was very becoming. She had added a pair 
of heavy silver earrings. 

"You ll ravish him," Joel said, getting up and putting his 
arm around her. He made the movement an excuse to go 
over to the drink tray and pour himself another drink. 

A little pause came over them and they sat around un 
comfortably. Harriet wanted to say something to start 
them talking again. It would be too bad if Tryson should 
come in when they were all feeling so stiff. Before she 
could think of something, though, the doorbell rang and 
Pris jumped up nervously to answer it. She took a last look 
around the living room before she went out, and the look 


affected all of them. Harriet almost smiled to see Joel and 
Gray straightening their ties and stamping out their ciga 
rettes, and Elaine putting her hand up to her hair again. 
Kit took an unnatural pose against the mantelpiece, one 
hand lying along it like a tragedienne. They were all of 
them ridiculously self-conscious. Harriet was glad that her 
chair was in a distant corner of the room where she would 
be inconspicuous. 

In the hall they could hear Pris talking to someone, and 
his voice in reply, rather low. They didn t come in for a 
minute, and Harriet guessed that he was standing beside 
Pris while she hung up his hat and coat in the hall closet. 
She thought, this is awful, we mustn t be sitting around like 
a bunch of mummies. "Joel, you d better get the cocktail 
shaker," she said to him, and her voice released all of them 
from their tense attitudes. Elaine smoothed her dress out 
over her lap and crossed her legs, and Gray got up with 
Joel. "I ll get some ice too," he said. They went out to 
gether hurriedly, as if they were glad to get away. Their 
movement through the room distracted the others for a 
second and when Pris brought her young man in none of 
them looked too self-conscious. 

"Where s everybody?" Pris asked in bewilderment. 
"Elaine, this is Kenneth Tryson; my mother, Kenneth." 
She brought him over to where Elaine was sitting on the 
couch, and he bent down to shake hands with her. Harriet 
was glad to have the chance to look at him before he would 
be aware of it. He was not at all what she had imagined. 
She thought he would be a lean, bony faced young man 
with a small chin and blond hair. Instead, he was heavy 
and red-faced, and although his chin was weak, he had a 
very full red mouth over it which looked perpetually sulky. 

160 September ig^^-December 

Even when he smiled to speak to Elaine he looked as if 
he were frowning. His eyebrows were dark and his fore 
head had a great many wrinkles in it for a young man. 

"And this is my sister-in-law, Harriet Randolf," Pris said, 
bringing him around to Harriet and pausing a second to 
allow him to shake hands with her. "And this is my sister, 
Kit Beavers." 

Kit gave him her quick, friendly smile. "It s quite a fam 
ily, isn t it?" she said. "There re still more out in the 
kitchen. They ll be in in a second." 

"Pris didn t warn me," he said, responding to her friend 

"I didn t want to scare you away," Pris said. She took his 
arm as if to lead him away from Kit. "Come on and sit 
down," she said. 

He picked one of the small straight chairs near the couch 
and sat on it uncertainly. Pris perched on the arm of the 
couch. Her position was casual, but she was obviously taut, 
and she held her hands tightly in her lap. 

Elaine said sweetly to him, "I hope you don t mind our 
informality, Mr. Tryson. Sunday afternoon is our time 
for rest. We ve all just been sitting around ever since din 

"I hate formality," he said quickly and defensively. Har 
riet got the impression that he disliked the idea that he 
should be ceremonious. He s got a chip on his shoulder 
about something, she thought. I never saw such a self-con 
scious, angry-looking young man. 

Joel and Gray came in with the cocktail shaker and the 
ice. They looked cheerful, as if they had been telling each 
other jokes out in the kitchen. There was an atmosphere 


of conspiracy about them; you could see them straighten 
their faces as they reached the living room again. 

"My brother, Joel Randolf," Pris said, not getting up 
to make the introduction. "And Gray Beavers, my brother- 

Tryson stood quickly and held out his hand to them. 
Their manner was very nice, Harriet thought. Joel was his 
easiest and Gray s reticent smile was pleasant. They set 
about fixing him a drink immediately, and drew him along 
with them in an unspoken invitation. The four women 
watched their backs as they stood before the little liquor 
table. They were held for a moment in silence, as if it were 
important to w T atch every commonplace movement. Then 
Pris leaned down and took up a cigarette but didn t light 
it. She twisted it in her fingers, tapping first one end, then 
the other, monotonously. 

"Here, darling," Kit said, and lit a match for her. It 
was an impatient gesture, like a reproach to her for being 
so nervous, and Pris lifted her eyes to look in her face while 
she held the cigarette to the flame. They smiled very faintly 
at each other and Pris got up from her uncomfortable seat 
and settled herself down on the couch, crossing her legs 
and looking more natural. 

The men returned with their own cocktails and one for 
each of the women. They sat down again and smiled at 
each other. Having the glasses to hold made them less 
awkward. Elaine looked with widened eyes around the 
circle of their faces. "Isn t it nice to be all cozy inside here?" 
she asked Tryson invitingly. "When it s such a depressing 

"Don t talk to Kenneth about its being depressing," Pris 
said laughingly. "He likes rain, he s a farmer." 

1 62 September 193 ^-December 

"Oh, are you really, Mr. Tryson?" Elaine said. "I didn t 
know that. Where is your farm?" 

"Up in South Norwalk, Connecticut," Tryson said. He 
took a large swallow of his drink and looked defiantly 
around at the rest of them. 

"What sort of farming do you do?" Joel asked him. 

"Both dairy and truck," Kenneth said. "Although I m 
thinking about adding an apple orchard too." 

"Oh, apples," Elaine said. "They re nice. Do you remem 
ber that farmer near us in South Wales, Pris? He had such 
charming little trees. I liked to see them, all cut so round 
and neat." 

"Does your whole family farm?" Kit asked him. Harriet 
smiled. She wandered if Kit still had an eye on his mother 
and sisters. 

"Oh, no," he said. "My family believe in leisure. I don t 
live with them, their home is in Long Island. I run the farm 
by myself." 

"Do you make it pay?" Joel asked. Harriet was afraid 
that he was being offensive, but she remembered back to 
when she had first married him and how the whole fam 
ily had asked her questions about herself. Their manner 
had been flattering more than anything else. They looked 
so genuinely interested, and you felt it was so important 
to them to know your background so that they could be 
more intimate with you. Probably young Tryson would 
have the same reaction. 

He spoke rather stiffly, however. "Yes, of course," he 
said. "It s not just a hobby for me. It s my real work." 

"Oh, yes," Joel said, nodding to himself. His manner 
was respectful and pleasant and Tryson responded to it. 


"I didn t like not having anything to do," he explained, 
"but I thought it was rather foolish to look for a job. You 
get so tired of these independent young men who take 
twenty-five-dollar-a-week jobs just to play at them. Not 
to mention their keeping somebody else out of work. So 
I decided that I d put some of my capital into a farm and 
try to create a job for myself." 

"That sounds like fun," Kit said. She left her position by 
the mantelpiece and came to sit nearer. "Did you know 
anything about farming before you started?" 

"I took a year s course at Cornell," he said to her. "And 
Fve got an excellent man working for me who s had a lot 
of practical experience. You find after a while that that s 
more important than all the things you learn out of books. 
He s apt to laugh at me for some of my notions, and I m 
bound to say he generally turns out to be right." 

Joel brought the cocktail shaker around and poured them 
all another drink. Tryson put his glass up so eagerly that 
Harriet suspected he felt awkward. 

"Tell them about your research, Kenneth," Pris urged 
him. "They d like to hear about that." 

"It s not very interesting, really," he said to her. Harriet 
got the impression that he drew away from Pris every time 
she spoke to him so possessively. She s going to have a hard 
time with that young man, she thought. He s very wary. 

"Yes, go ahead, tell us about it," Kit said. He responded 
to her more easily than to Pris. Harriet wondered with 
amusement if it were because Kit was married. "I ve got a 
little laboratory," he told her. "And I m doing some experi 
mental work on breeds of cows. It s rather interesting. You 
see, cows can t s\veat. And they ve discovered that in hot 
climates cows run a perpetual fever, which is why they re 

164 September i^^-December 

not very successful at dairying in the South. I m working 
on a breed that can stand hotter climates. It doesn t affect 
my own farm at all, of course, but it would be a great thing 
for the country if we could find something out." Harriet 
got a curious impression that he was explaining himself so 
simply not because he was trying to make himself under 
stood by them, but because he thought of the problem that 
way in his own mind. There was something of the dilettante 
in the way he spoke. "A great thing for the country" 
seemed to be a phrase that somebody else had used and he 
was quoting. She had no feeling of conviction in his excite 
ment. He was interested in his experiments, she suspected, 
as you would be in a crossword puzzle. They were fun, but 
he probably didn t sacrifice anything to them. 

"I have a friend who s an excellent biologist," he went 
on. "He works with me. Or rather I work with him. Harry 
doesn t think about anything else. He s a real slave-driver, 
and I let him have a free hand. He even carries the key to 

the laboratory; I can t get in unless he s with me." 

"Doesn t seem to leave you much time for anything else," 

Joel said. "Your farm and your laboratory and all. Sounds 

rather confining." 

"It doesn t have to be," Tryson said quickly. "The place 

is in good hands. I can leave it for months at a time if I 

want to. And it s so near New York that I can drive in for 

an evening any time I want." 

"That s true," Elaine said, nodding her head. "That s a 

very nice arrangement. I envy you, Mr. Tryson." 

"Oh, do call him Kenneth," Pris said impatiently. 

"Shouldn t she, Ken? You sound so formal, Elaine." 
"I wish you would," Kenneth said, but he sounded a little 


resentful. "Pris called me Kenneth the first time she met 
me," he added, grinning a little. 

"You can t restrain Pris," Joel said. "She d call the Presi 
dent by his first name within an hour after meeting him." 

"I can t get used to Mr., " Pris said. "I m still a little 
girl at heart, I guess." She smiled to Kenneth, mocking her 
self, and he smiled back at her reluctantly. 

"I suppose we all get the same freedom?" Kit asked. Her 
voice was too light. 

Kenneth didn t reassure her immediately and there was 
a momentary awkwardness. It must be a strange sensation 
for the Randolf s to feel brazen, Harriet thought. People are 
usually so charmed by their bluntness. Kit made some re 
mark, to show that she was not offended at Kenneth s 
silence, and they recovered again, but it had been embar 
rassing and their conversation for a while after that sounded 
like a formula for polite social intercourse. They re behav 
ing as if this were terribly important; probably Pris s joking 
beforehand scared them, but it s ridiculous for them to be 
awed by this stiff young man, Harriet thought. Why can t 
they see how superior they are to him, a clumsy, rude boy 
like this. She watched Joel get up and begin mixing another 
cocktail. He carried the shaker around, pouring it into the 
outstretched glasses, and w r hen Kenneth tried to protest, he 
overrode him and filled his glass again. Pris reached out and 
touched Kenneth s arm. "You ve got to keep up with me," 
she said to him. Harriet noticed that he looked down at her 
hand sharply as if it disturbed him, and she saw suddenly 
that Pris was tremendously attractive to him in a way he 
tried to resist. He s afraid of it, she thought. He smiled now 
nervously, still looking down at Pris s hand, and finally cov 
ered it for a second with his own. "All right," he said. 

1 66 September 19 ^ ^-December 

Joel, who had gone back to the table with the shaker, was 
filling his own glass again and he came over to sit down by 
Harriet with it still full. "You haven t drunk yours," he 
whispered to her. 

"I don t feel much like it," she said. He took her glass 
out of her hand. "I ll take care of it for you," he told her, 
and drank what was left in it quickly, giving her back the 
emptied glass when he had finished. He began sipping his 
own drink immediately, while she watched him with con 
cern. The others had left them alone for a few moments, 
but that didn t suit him and he got up and interrupted some 
thing Elaine was saying, drawing himself back into the con 

The drinks had begun to take their eifect on the party. 
The process was too subtle to follow, but suddenly Harriet 
saw that they were talking easily and that gradually they 
were drawing Kenneth into it. He didn t become lively as 
the rest of them, but more serious, and he got into engrossed 
conversations with Elaine or Kit, talking heavily and keep 
ing his eyes on the ground or his glass while he spoke. Still, 
as time went on, he expanded, dropping some of his fears 
and tightnesses. He s a solemn young man, Harriet thought, 
but at least he s not so afraid of us all now. Pris watched 
him a good deal and every now and then she spoke up to 
show her intimacy with him. It was a rather obvious way 
of going about things, but it grew more effective. Finally 
Kenneth was looking up at her and including her in his con 
versations. She got up once to empty an ashtray, and com 
ing back, she pulled up a little footstool and sat by his feet. 
He seemed to pay no attention to her, but Harriet noticed 
the same little jump when she touched him, and this time 
she was almost shocked. Goodness, she thought, such a re- 


pressed young man could be dangerous. She wondered if 
Pris knew how she affected him; she rather suspected 
she did. 

It was aimless talk for all Kenneth s seriousness, but now 
and then Harriet learned something about him. "Hey, by 
the way, Joel," Pris said once. "Kenneth knows Mark Til- 
linger. Did you know that?" 

"No," Joel said enthusiastically. "Do you know Mark? I 
haven t seen him for a long time. How is he?" 

Kenneth shrugged his shoulders. "All right, I guess," he 
said. "You kne\v he got married, didn t you?" 

"Yes," Joel said. "I hear she s a swell girl Have you 
met her?" 

Kenneth nodded. "She s very pretty," he said non-com- 

"That sounds damning," Kit laughed. "What s the mat 
ter with her?" 

"Nothing, really," Kenneth said. "Maybe it ll work out 
all right." 

"What do you mean?" Kit asked. "The marriage? 
What s wrong with her? Come on, Kenneth, let us have the 
dirt. Mark used to be an old beau of mine." 

"Well, she was his secretary, you know," Kenneth said, 
"She married him for his money. Once in a while that sort 
of thing turns out to be all for the good, but there s a lot 
against it. I was very bothered about it. I tried to persuade 
Mark not to marry her. It was so clear to anyone else. But 
he said I was hipped on the subject." He looked down at 
his glass again, his face gloomy. "Maybe," he said. 

"Did you have anything to go on?" Harriet asked him 
curiously. "Besides the fact that she W 7 as his secretary?" 

1 68 September 19 ^-December 

"Well, it speaks for itself, doesn t it?" Kenneth said bel 

Harriet leaned back in her chair as he went on talking. 
The boy was very revealing about himself. That little inci 
dent, his cautiousness with Pris, his frowning attitude to 
wards all of them, all added up. As he loosened up more 
and more he went on confirming her feeling. He was self- 
conscious about his money to an almost pathological degree 
and he was mortally afraid of the effect it had on people. 
He distrusted everybody; all of his remarks were the 
crudely cynical remarks of a little boy who has only re 
cently learned that there is no Santa Glaus. In somebody 
else it might have been an affectation, but he was unques 
tionably genuine. He kept talking about the uselessness of 
the rich, and how much he wanted to do for the world 
with his money. They got a past history of all the different 
ventures that he had tried, ranching, sponsor to a concert 
organization, theatrical failures, book publishing, all of them 
projects which had either been unsuccessful or in which 
he had lost interest. It was going to be rather hard on Pris, 
with her obvious poverty, Harriet thought, to convince 
him of any real liking. 

She moved over to the couch to sit beside Elaine. Pris 
said something particularly flippant about his farm and sug 
gested that he raise silver foxes because she "wanted a new 
coat." His face grew redder and more sullen than ever and 
Harriet saw that he was offended. 

"Silver fox farming is a very delicate business, and an ex 
pensive one, isn t it?" she asked him seriously. He looked 
immediately grateful and swung around in his chair so that 
he faced her. 

"Yes, it is," he said. He launched into a long discussion 


of its problems and why he had decided against it. It was 
only when he talked about his work that he showed any 
sort of liveliness, Harriet noticed. 

"Gee, I m sorry you gave up the idea," Pris said. "Think 
of all those nice pelts. You could have a whole string of 
blondes on your trail, Kenneth, if you d taken up silver fox 

"That certainly wouldn t be what I d want," Kenneth 
said stiffly. He looked down fleetingly at Pris s blonde head, 
and Harriet smiled, it was so apparent what was going 
through his mind. 

They went on like that, striking some sensibility every 
now and then which made him pull up stiffly, but in a blun 
dering way they were winning him, Harriet thought. Per 
haps it was because they made him laugh. She suspected 
that he was seldom treated with so little ceremony and that 
he probably liked it. He looked as if he wanted to stay on 
and on. It was too bad, Harriet thought, but Pris was begin 
ning to look restive. She was only waiting for a good open 
ing to suggest they leave. 

"Listen," Joel said, looking across at Harriet. "I m starv 
ing, darling. Can t you rustle up a sandwich or something?" 

Kenneth looked down at his watch reluctantly. This was 
the chance for which Pris had been waiting. 

"I hope you re thinking about dinner," she said to him. 
She smiled apologetically. "I ve been longing to have you 
say something about it, but I was too polite to remind you." 

"Hah!" Joel said, laughing. 

"We should be going, you re right," Kenneth said. He 
still lingered and Elaine and Kit were not very helpful to 
Pris in encouraging him to go. None of them made the sort 

170 September 193 ^-December 

of movement that would release him and he leaned back in 
his chair again as if he had given up for the moment. 

Pris stood up and reached down for his hand. "Now that 
it s been suggested," she said, "did I mention that I was 

He looked up at her impatiently, and his hand jerked 
back from her momentarily. Then the touch must have 
softened him. His fingers curled around hers. "Well, if you 
think we ought to," he said, looking back at the others for 
support. But none of them tried to keep him now, the mo 
ment of warmth was broken. He stood up slowly and be 
gan saying good-bye to them, with Pris by his side to hurry 
him on. Harriet felt that she was only restraining herself 
from grabbing his arm and tugging at him. She s afraid 
we ll monopolize him, but it s a shame, he was just begin 
ning to have a nice time, she thought. 

After they had gone, she went into the kitchen to find 
the others something to eat. She heard them talking behind 
her in the dining room, and now and then there was a laugh 
which made her feel lonely. I wonder if Pris really likes this 
boy, she thought, there s something so calculated about the 
way she treats him. I hope she doesn t get too involved with 
him, he s such a neurotic, tortured kind of a person. I kind 
of like him, really, and I feel sorry for him, but heavens, it 
would be hard to get along with him. I wouldn t wish that 
on Pris. 

Joel came out after her and offered to help. "Thanks, 
darling," she said. She handed him the carving knife and 
he started to slice the ham. 

"How do you like young Tryson?" she asked him. She 
waited anxiously for his answer. She wanted him to tell her 


that she was right, that they had all seen what she had seen, 
and that they were all worried. 

She could only see his blond head bent to his work, with 
the bare electric light shining on it from above. "Oh, I don t 
know," he said. His voice was casual, and he picked up a 
little snippet of the meat and put it in his mouth. "Seems 
like a nice enough guy to me," he said. 


The little Christmas tree standing on the table beside the 
window had been pretty at first. The packages around it had 
made it seem fat and prosperous. But now they had taken 
them all off and opened them, and some of the candy canes 
had gone too. It looked tawdry now in the middle of an 
untidy living room with its pieces of red or green paper and 
scraps of ribbon all over the floor. 

Kit and Pris and Elaine had gone to an afternoon movie, 
leaving Joel to go to sleep. He had been drinking too much 
again, and Harriet was glad that the heavy Christmas meal 
on top of the cocktails made him sleepy instead of wanting 
to go out and do something. She sat on the couch with her 
feet curled under her and watched Gray doing the last part 
of the crossword puzzle. She was too lazy to bring out her 
knitting and yet was a little restless with having nothing to 
do with her hands. 

"I can t get this African antelope, " Gray said. He put 
the paper down and lit himself a cigarette. "It ll just have 
to go unfinished," 

"It s *gnu, or something, isn t it?" Harriet asked care 
lessly. He picked the paper up again and looked at it. 

"Ummm," he said. "That fits. Thanks. Now I have a per 
fect record." 

172 September 19 ^-December 

They smiled at each other happily. "Don t you feel smart 
when you finish the whole thing?" Harriet asked him. 

He nodded. "And so weak-minded when I don t," he 
said. He leaned over to offer a cigarette and she took one 
from him. She tapped the end on her hand while she waited 
for him to get out a match. He was always a quiet person, 
she thought, but he seemed unusually so today. Perhaps be 
cause Kit had been so gay. Gray had sat back in his chair 
and said nothing all morning and afternoon. It wasn t very 
normal; you usually felt he was enjoying everything and 
sharing it, even if he didn t talk much. But he had been ab 
stracted. She wondered if this ceaseless looking for work 
was beginning to depress him. He hadn t talked about it for 
a long time. 

"What luck with finding a job?" she asked him, not to 
remind him of it needlessly, but because she hoped that in 
talking about it he would be able to say out some of the 
things that had been worrying him. 

"I can t find anything," he said. "And I don t know what 
I d do if I could. Kit won t want to leave New York now 
that she s getting along so well at Considine s." 

"Oh, golly," Harriet said. "I hadn t thought about that." 
"I hadn t either until the other day," Gray told her. 
"When Kit reminded me. It seems there s a quiet little plot 
on foot to ease Gladys Stevens out of her job. It s all part 
of the new policy of smart, well-bred employees that Kit 
sold them when she first started there. Naturally, "Kit will 
take Gladys s place. And when she becomes a buyer, she ll 
be making too much of a salary to even think of quitting 
to go with me to some little middle-western college." 

"Gladys Stevens!" Harriet said in surprise. "But I thought 
she was so good." 


"Good, but not elegant enough now," Gray said. "You 
remember how Kit used to stick up for her? Well, now she 
dislikes her violently. Every other word is a criticism of 
her. She has no tone, Kit says, whatever that is." 

"That doesn t sound like Kit," Harriet said. "I m sure 
this wasn t Kit s idea, at any rate." 

"You don t think so?" Gray said bitterly. "Because it 
doesn t sound like Kit? Well, what does Kit sound like 
now? She isn t the person she used to be. And she hasn t yet 
become the person she s going to be. She s nothing now, 
she s in the process of renovation. Kit hasn t got a character 
any more." 

"Gray, you ve been quarreling with her and you re still 
angry," Harriet accused him. "Or you wouldn t talk like 

"No, I haven t," Gray told her. "We don t quarrel any 
more. We used to for a while, but Kit s too indifferent now 
to be bothered by my objections." 

"She s just excited by her work, that s all," Harriet said. 
"The excitement will die away after a while and she ll pay 
more attention to you." 

Gray stood up and walked across the room to the mantel 
piece. He leaned against it, and Harriet, looking at him, 
remembered how Kit always stood there, it was her favorite 
position, with one elbow up, leaning on one foot. 

"It isn t attention that I want," he said. His voice was re 
strained and a little scratchy. "I want her to be as simple 
and as generous as she s always been and as lovely. She s 
losing her loveliness for me, Harriet. Do you think I m 
crazy? I think her face is changing, it looks harder, it looks 
more like Gladys Stevens s." 

"Yes, you are crazy," Harriet said, smiling a little bit. 

174 September i^p-December 

"And you re more upset than you should be. Kit s growing 
older, she s becoming more complicated, that s all." 

"Look, Harriet," Gray said. "I ve been wanting to talk 
to you about this for some time. You re an outsider too, and 
you re married to Joel. Aren t you worried about the 
change in him?" 

"Joel s not changing!" Harriet said indignantly. "I m as 
much in love with him as ever. More so, I think." 

"He s changed," Gray said emphatically. "I know all 
about you, Harriet, because we both have the same back 
ground, the same kind of upbringing. I know why you fell 
^in love with Joel. I fell in love with Kit for the same reason. 
We think they live life more completely, they feel things 
physically, because they act by instinct. We think they re 
complete naturals. That charms us; they have more fun, we 
think, than the thoughtful people. Isn t that true?" 

Harriet started to say something and then closed her 
mouth again to think. "I suppose that s a simplification of 
it," she said finally. "I know that s what I like about the 
family, and I suppose Joel is part of it. Only there s more 
than that, Gray, he s stronger than me, and I love that too." 
"Of course he s stronger, or he was," Gray said. "He 
never had anything to worry him. None of them ever did. 
They just went their way blithely without any distractions 
or hindrances. And they got a terrible amount of enjoy 
ment out of it. That s what fascinated us, Harriet. And 
that s what they re beginning to lose now, that s why I m 

"But they aren t," Harriet said. "They can t change their 
natures. People can t change their natures." 

"No," Gray said. "Not exactly. But they can come up 
against problems that are too much for them, and then they 


begin to break down. Joel and Kit are being forced to 
think, and they re not used to it. It s too hard on them, 
Harriet, it s making them crumble." 

"That s nonsense!" Harriet said indignantly. She almost 
hated Gray for a second; he made her think of Elaine and 
her despair. Elaine was crumbling, but not Kit. Not Joel. 
She tried futilely to argue with Gray. 

"Kit and Joel are doing magnificently at their jobs," she 
said. "Not many people with their training could have 
sailed into business and done as well at it as they ve done." 

"I don t know about Joel," Gray said. "Except that he s 
drinking a lot too much nowadays. But as for Kit, she s sac 
rificing so much to do well at her job that it isn t worth it. 
No intelligent person has to become as hard, as cut-throat, 
as Kit is becoming. I love her a lot, Harriet. As much as I 
always did. But I can t bear to see her grow so hard." 

"You have to be tough to do well at business," Harriet 

"Frankly, I think a good deal of that is*a myth," Gray 
said. "But if it isn t, I d prefer to see Kit a dismal failure. 
Listen, Harriet, you know other successful people, they re 
not pirates. Kit and Joel, and even little Pris with her 
wealthy young farmer, they ve all lost their generosity, 
their unselfishness. It seems to me that they re going at 
things too hard. They re beating against a wall they don t 
understand. They re not thinking people, they re not 
geared for it, everything s been too easy for them. When 
things become hard suddenly they have no weapons, they 
go on acting instinctively and unreasonably. Only it isn t 
charming any more, it s terrible." 

"Don t, Gray!" Harriet said. "I don t like the way you re 
talking." She was frightened and upset by his words. They 

176 September 19 ^-December 

put into speech things that had been worrying her for 
months, and there was just enough truth to them to make 
her wonder if he could be right about the rest. "They are 
trying to adapt themselves," she said. "And maybe they re 
making mistakes, everybody does. But they ll get settled 
soon. They ve had to change their lives so suddenly, Gray, 
most people never have to do that. Most changes come 
gradually, not all at once like theirs. But Kit will straighten 
out. I m not worried about Joel. I don t care what you say, 
he hasn t changed." 

"I used the wrong word," Gray said heatedly. "It s not 
that they re changing. It s that events are changing and 
they re being made to look unpleasant by them." 

"I think you probe and analyze too much," Harriet said. 
"It s just what I told you. Kit is growing up. Perhaps she s 
lost some youthful qualities that you liked. But she ll have 
others just as good. And you re trying to find an explana 
tion for it. You re trying to force her into some sort of 
frame. I know people like you, my father was like that. 
Everything has to fit into an outline, with a here and c b 
there. And I think it s nonsense. People like Kit and Joel 
don t try to figure people out that way and they re better 
at human relationships than either of us." 

"They used to be," Gray said gloomily. "But are they 
now? That s what s worrying me." 

"I don t see why you say that," Harriet said. "You think 
Kit is knifing Gladys Stevens in the back. Well, if she is, 
it s because Gladys taught her those tricks. The only time 
Kit s been dishonest was when she said she liked Gladys. 
You can t blame her for that. She was simply trying to kid 
herself into it. That s not harmful, is it?" 


"It wouldn t be if it were the whole story," Gray said. 
"But it isn t." 

"Don t just say it isn t so flatly," Harriet said. "I can t 
argue with you if you re being dogmatic." 

"I don t want to argue with you," Gray said. His voice 
was quieter now. "That s why I didn t go on. You re angry 
because you re afraid I m telling the truth. You won t admit 
it to yourself, but it s so, isn t it?" 

"No," she said. "You re all wrong. You re the kind of 
person Fm trying to escape from. I married Joel to get 
away from your kind of person. Like my father and his 
friends. Always uncertaii^ jajways arguing, never ; happy. I 
hated that, and I got out of it. I m happier with Joel than 
I ve ever been in my life. Joel and his whole family. I love 
them all. They make me feel gay and sure of myself and 
comfortable. They make me think that worrying is foolish 
and that thinking doesn t help." 

"In other words, you want to live like an animal," Gray 

"No," Harriet said. "Not like an animal. But like an ordi 
nary human. I don t want to be ahead of the crowd. I want 
to be with them and share their feelings. That s the way to 
feel the world move." 

"But you can t," Gray said gently. "That s the trouble. 
You re not built like that. You re intelligent, You re sensi 
tive. You can t repress those qualities all your life. You ll 
always be looking on at the Randolfs. Maybe you ll con 
tinue to admire them, but you won t be one of them." 

"I m one of them now," Harriet said proudly. "I m part 
of them." 

"You re becoming more and more necessary to them," 

178 September 193 ^-December 

Gray said, still gently. "Because you re stronger than they 

"I don t see how you can talk that way," Harriet said 
angrily. "And still claim you love Kit." 

"I m not kidding myself, that s all," Gray said. "But I 
do." His face grew warm and affectionate. "She s still the 
most delightful person I ve ever known, I don t think I 
could do without her. But there s no sense in trying to fool 
myself about it, is there?" 

"You re fooling yourself more than you think," Harriet 
said. "You ve got it all figured out and you don t look at 
anything that doesn t fit in with your theory. You re" 

The doorbell rang three times, interrupting them, and 
they began to look at each other sheepishly, ashamed of 
their heat. Joel came down the hall, rubbing his head and 
his face to get rid of his sleep, and pushed the little buzzer. 

"Must be the family," he said. His speech was a little 
thick and his eyes were bloodshot. He saw Harriet and 
grinned, holding out his arm to her. "I m going on the 
wagon," he said. "This holiday season has been too much 
for me." 

There was a knock on the front door and Gray went past 
them to open it. Elaine and the two girls came in. 

"I forgot my key and Pris forgot hers," Elaine an 
nounced. "Isn t that strange? Pm glad you all are still here. 
Joel, you look terrible!" 

He stuck out his tongue at her and she looked at it seri 
ously. "It s quite coated," she told him. 

"Now that she s satisfied herself about that, she ll forget 
him completely," Kit said laughingly. "I remember when 
we were kids, how she used to murmur something vaguely 
about castor oil, but we never had to take it." 


"Didn t you?" Elaine said, trying to remember. "I 
thought I gave it to you." 

Gray took her coat for her and went over to Kit for hers. 
She smiled at him and stood on tiptoe to kiss him on the 
cheek. "It was a lousy movie, darling," she said. "You re 
lucky you didn t go. What have you and Harriet been 
doing, you look very lively?" 

"A crossword puzzle," Gray said. "We just finished it." 

"So that s what professors are for!" Kit said. 

They came into the living room in a body, laughing and 
talking all at once, and Harriet backed up in front of them. 
She saw Joel look at the bottle of whiskey still out on the 
little liquor table, make a face, and pour himself a glass of 
water. She smiled at him tenderly, and smiled too at Pris, 
who went over beside him and put her arm around his 
waist. "Give me a sip?" she said. 

Their happiness and good nature was thick around them, 
and Harriet looked across at Gray. He shrugged his shoul 
ders slightly and she would have been angry at him again ex 
cept that just then Kit said something to him and he looked 
down at her smilingly. He was simply upset because of 
some row or other, Harriet thought, and I took him too 
seriously. He ll forget all about it in another day. 


Harriet stood with her hands deep in the soapy water in 
which she was washing underclothes. The bathroom was 
steamy and it was the first time all day she had really been 
warm. She must call the superintendent about the heat, she 
thought. It was snowing outside and damp, which made the 
cold mofe penetrating. Although Harriet s hands were 
warm, she could see, whenever she looked up at herself in 

180 September i$ ^p-December 

the mirror, that her nose was still reddened, and she shiv 
ered a little from memory of the chill in her bones. 

In Ohio, her father s little frame house had been hard to 
keep warm. The wind came through the cracks, it was 
badly constructed, and in winter she had had to go about 
nailing weather-stripping to the lattice work around the 
foundations. They got used to it by wearing sweaters and 
woolen tennis socks over their stockings. And at night they 
slept heavily under dozens of blankets, dressed in flannel 
pajamas. The worst had been getting up in the early morn 
ing. Her father had been delicate ever since they got out 
there and Harriet had had to build up the fire in the fur 
nace. It had been an agony each morning to exert the will 
power necessary to put the first foot out of bed and to close 
the window left healthily open. Then going quietly down 
stairs in the gray, still house and down the cement cellar 
steps, which held the chill so that if her bare ankles brushed 
against the wall she was made colder still. Then the water 
to be put on for coffee, and then climbing the stairs again 
to dress in a cold bathroom. She thought now, how easily 
you get out of such hard habits. Thinking back on it, I 
don t know how I did it every day. It s good to know that 
no matter where we live now, there will always be Joel to 
go down and light the furnace, to put the water on for 
coffee. To take care of her and cherish her as if she were 
frail and had never taken care of herself for so many years. 

She let the soapy water out, holding up the mass of wet, 
pink underwear, and turned on the hot-water faucet to 
rinse out the bowl. When she had plugged it again and 
mixed cold with the hot water, she dropped the underwear 
back in and watched the little, cloudy bubbles of suds come 
out in the clear water. 


As it so often did when she was alone, her mind strayed 
back in her past, wondering about it, contrasting it with 
her life now. But, she thought, there s a difference. I m get 
ting more tolerant, I know now that it was good training 
taking care of Dad the way I did. It s given me a sort of 
confidence. I m afraid of people, but not of things. I feel I 
could always take care of myself. I enjoy having Joel take 
care of me, but it s really a luxury to let him do it. 

She ran the clothes through several rinsings and took 
them out, squeezing them carefully and gently in her hands. 
When she had been a little girl, a sister of her father s had 
taken her on yearly shopping expeditions and bought utili 
tarian clothes for her, clothes that she would not grow out 
of within the next year. She remembered, looking down at 
her soft, lace-trimmed brassieres and panties, that she had 
worn long woolen underwear to school in the winter, al 
though the other children never had. And in gym, when 
they took off their shoes and stockings so as not to dent the 
floor, the legs of her long drawers would come tumbling 
down although she stuffed them in her bloomers to hide 
them. They had been so hideous and nobody else had ever 
worn them. She had rebelled against them finally and taken 
a pair of scissors and cut the legs off. Her father had never 
said anything and that was the first time that she had 
learned that she could go her own way. It had given her a 
sense of responsibility, curiously enough, and instead of 
running wild she had become more thoughtful and careful 
about her behavior. She had even lied sometimes to other 
children and pretended that her father had told her she 
could not do this and could not do that because their 
mothers forbade them things and she would have felt neg 
lected if she had not had some authority to obey. 

182 September i$3<)-December 1939. 

In those days, before she was old enough to keep house 
herself, her father hired a maid who slept in. Harriet had 
never known one maid for any length of time because most 
of them left after a while. The quiet that must be main 
tained for her father s sake, and the dullness of the house 
hold, drove them all away. The last one they had, when 
Harriet was sixteen and in her last year of high school, 
probably would have stayed longer. She had discovered 
how to cheat Harriet s father on the marketing expenses, 
and was making a good thing out of it. It was Harriet s 
discovery of this that made her take over the housekeeping 
herself. It had started temporarily, but nobody had ever 
been able to keep her father so comfortable, and except for 
a weekly maid to help with the heavy cleaning, they had 
never had another one since. 

After she had come to New York, her father had moved 
to the faculty club, leaving the house empty, and was living 
there. It probably was what he would have liked to do for 
years. There he could go his own way completely and 
there would be no household arrangements to disturb him. 
She thought of him now and wondered if he missed her. 
His letters to her were warmer than anything he had ever 
said to her personally. But then, she thought, smiling a little, 
her father was always better on paper. 

There was a sound in the hall, which she heard now that 
the water was no longer running. She hung the last of her 
clothes on the wooden rack which ran up to the ceiling on 
a pulley, and hoisted it up. The noise came again, like some 
body stumbling, and she opened the door and looked across 
to their room to see what it was. 

Joel was standing just inside the door, rubbing his shin 
where he had bumped into a chair. He looked untidy, 


and she realized as he put his leg down and looked at her 
in embarrassment, that he had been drinking too much 
again. She wondered what he was doing home in the middle 
of the afternoon. 

"Did your boss give you the day off or something?" she 
asked him. 

"No," Joel said tantalizingly, without anything to follow 
it up, and he sprawled on their studio couch, stretching his 
legs out in front of him. She came slowly into the room. "I 
just took it off myself," he told her finally. 

"But why, Joel!" she said in bewilderment. Since they 
had been married, Joel, who was never ill, hadn t missed a 
day at the office. She had been proud of him for that, and 
pleased because she guessed that it stayed exciting for him; 
that was what made him so regular, he was always eager to 
go there. 

"I m supposed to be seeing a guy," Joel told her. "But I 
decided not to. They don t know at the office." 

"What about the man you re supposed to see?" Harriet 
said. "Didn t you have an appointment with him?" 

"I called it off," Joel told her. He looked up at her with 
mock penitence. "Don t scold me, Harriet, darling Har 
riet," he said. "Don t be a gloom. Rejoice. You ve got your 
husband home with you" 

She forced herself to smile. Poor Joel, she thought. It 
must be rather hard on him to be married to a girl like me. 
I didn t realize that I put him so on the defensive; he ex 
pects a scolding. 

"I do," she said. "You re just in time to fix this chair. 
Look, the stuffing s coming out the bottom of it. I wish 
you d nail some canvas over it to hold it up." She squatted 

184 September i$ ^-December 

on the floor to show him, and he came over beside her 
and got down, rather unsteadily, to look. . 

"Sure," he said. "See, I knew you needed me. I m psy 
chic, that s what I am. Psychic." 

"I ll get a hammer and the canvas," she said. "I bought 
some yesterday." 

She went swiftly down the hall, feeling afraid to leave 
him alone long, and bumped into Pris, who was coming 
out of the living room. "What s my little brother doing 
home so early?" Pris asked her. "He s tanked, isn t he?" 

Harriet smiled. "He s playing hookey," she said. "I m 
putting him to work." She got the hammer and nails down 
off the closet shelf where they kept them, and knelt down 
to undo the package of canvas she had left on the floor. 

"Here, I ll do that," Pris said, stooping too. "Can I 
watch? I bet it ll be a picnic. He bumped into the wall four 
times going down the hall." 

"Well," Harriet said dubiously. She didn t want Joel 
laughed at, and she was afraid that Pris was in no mood to 
be gentle with him. 

Pris took it for an answer, and throwing the paper and 
string aside, picked up the canvas and preceded her down 
the hall. Harriet followed her reluctantly. 

Joel was still sitting on the floor beside the chair, staring 
at it thoughtfully. He turned when they came in and held 
out his hand for the hammer. Obviously he was making an 
effort to seem sober. "This won t take long," he told Har 
riet with great dignity. He got up stiffly and turned the 
chair over on its side. "Now we ll just have to cut this can 
vas," he told her. He looked around him helplessly and she 
went to her workbasket for a pair of scissors. 
Til do that, Joel," she said. 


"No, no," Joel said. He pushed his head forward argu- 
mentatively. "You just sit down, Harriet, I m going to do 
the whole thing." 

Pris, as an indication to Harriet, seated herself on the 
couch and crossed her legs with an air of great interest. 

Joel picked up the scissors clumsily and began to cut the 
cloth in great jagged strips. It made Harriet nervous to 
watch him, she found she was holding her breath, but she 
forced herself not to interfere. Pris was grinning happily. 

"There," Joel said. "That s enough." He nodded to him 
self. "Plenty," he added. He put some of the nails in his 
mouth and took up the hammer. "Now, let s see," he said 
seriously, studying the bottom of the chair. Even though he 
was co-ordinating so badly, he handled the hammer ex 
pertly, and although he missed the nails several times, he 
drove them all in finally. It was a ragged, untidy job, but 
when he put the chair back on its feet again, it served; they 
could no longer see the bottom of it, hanging down below 
the frame. 

"Thanks, dear," Harriet said. "That s fine." She wished 
that Pris would leave them alone, she wanted to get him to 
take a nap. But she only leaned back comfortably and Har 
riet saw that she intended to stay. 

"Hello, Pris," Joel said, as if he saw her for the first time. 
"How s your love life?" 

"Barren," Pris said. 

"Barren?" Joel asked solicitously. "My little sister bar 
ren. Oh, I see, that s good, ha, ha, ha." He began to laugh 
as if she had made a great joke and Pris frowned. 

"Evidently you re in no condition for idle banter," she 
said, and stood up. Harriet was sorry that she was peeved, 
but glad that something could make her go. 

1 86 September ly^y-December 1939: 

She put out her nand to touch Pris s, and Pris, looking 
down at it, smiled suddenly. "He s looping, isn t he?" she 
whispered to her. "I ll leave him to you. I don t envy you. 
"Good-bye, children/ she said out loud. Joel came over 
to her and put his arm around her shoulders. "You going? 3 
he asked her. "What for? Did Harriet tell you to go away? 
Don t go. 3> 

"What s the matter?" Pris said bluntly. "Afraid to be 
alone with your wife? Let go of me, Joel, I ve got things 
to do." 

"Oh, yes," Joel said, dropping his arm from her shoul 
ders. "Of course, I m sorry, Pris." He was pulling himself 
together again with the same air of extreme gravity. Pris 
smiled at him and then at Harriet and went out. He stood 
looking after her, as if he weren t sure that she had gone. 

Harriet moved slightly on the couch, and put her hand 
up to her forehead. He was so strange, and childish, she 
didn t quite know what to say to him. It wasn t that she 
minded so much his being drunk, but that she was out of 
touch with him completely, and she didn t know how she 
should treat him. 

"I m sorry, Harriet," Joel said, turning around suddenly. 
She jumped a little and looked up at him. His face was very 
serious, he looked almost as if he were about to cry, and she 
felt suddenly stirred by it and put out her arms to him. He 
came over and sat down beside her, resting his head on her 
shoulder. Her sweater muffled his speech so that she could 
hardly hear what he was saying. 

"It s that damn Tyler," he said. "I didn t know a man 
could be so dirty. And I was a friend of his, too. It was 

"Tyler?" she asked. "Who s he? What did he do, Joel?" 


"You know," he said impatiently, making a gesture with 
his hand that caught her cheek and brushed against it 
roughly. "I told you about him, Henry Tyler. He got me 
that Conway account, remember?" 

"Conway s drugs?" she asked, thinking back. 

"Yes," he said. "He s taken it away. Fve lost the ac 

"Oh, darling," she said, genuinely troubled. She put her 
arms around his shoulders, holding him like a baby. "What 

"That s the terrible part of it," Joel said. "He didn t like 
the way I handled it. And he went to old MacCrae and told 
him so. Said that I was careless and didn t have any decent 
ideas. Didn t have any ideas! Isn t that dirty?" 

"What did MacCrae say?" Harriet said, wrinkling her 

"He bawled me out good!" Joel said. He put his head up 
now and looked at her, taking her hand. "Said he d give me 
one more chance, that they d never had a complaint like 
that before about a man in a responsible position. That I 
wasn t fit to hold it if I couldn t do better. God, it was 

"Oh, darling," Harriet said again. She was shocked and 

"Can you imagine anything so dirty?" Joel insisted. "All 
right, if he doesn t like my work, let him take his account 
away. But going in to see MacCrae and making a special 
point of telling him it was all my fault. Doesn t he know 
that people lose jobs that way? Isn t that dirty?" 

"It is," Harriet said emphatically. "Didn t you go to col 
lege with him?" 

"Yes, but that s all over now," Joel said. "That s what 

1 88 September 2$3<)-December 193$: 

he said to me. This isn t college any more, Randolf, he 
said. This is the world, and I m trying to earn a living just 
as much as you are. I can t try to cover up for you just be 
cause we used to play tennis together. " 

"When did he tell you that?" Harriet asked him. 

"Afterwards," Joel said. "I went over to see him and told 
him what I thought of him. I told him plenty, the dirty 
skunk. He talked big, but he won t forget what I said." 

"Oh, Joel, darling," Harriet said, her throat stretched to 
tears. "That won t help." 

"I know it won t," Joel said. He put his head down 
against her shoulder again. "But I had to do something, 
Harriet. I had to do something." 

She held him against her sickly, thinking about the time 
they had had dinner together in Enrico s and he had given 
her such confidence in him. She had been sure of him ever 
since that night, he had not talked about his work, and she 
had thought that it was going well. Now she realized sick- 
eningly that since she had had no hint of this trouble, she 
might have been deceived all the time. Perhaps he had been 
doing badly all along; she couldn t tell. There was no way 
of knowing. The old lack of confidence came back, and be 

"Harriet," he said softly. 

She bent down to him. "What, dear?" she asked him. 

"I m no good, Harriet," he said. He refused to look at 
her and continued to pour out words into her shoulder. She 
began looking at the wall in front of her, sightlessly, hold 
ing her head up as if she were afraid the tears which were 
growing in her eyes would spill, if she leaned down. "I ve 
never been any good," he said. "I thought it was easy at 
first, but everything s gone wrong. All my mistakes, one by 


one, every day when. I go in there s something else turned 
up. I try to hide them or cover them up, but I can t do that 
all the time. I m a failure, that s all, I can t conceal it any 


"Joel, dear," she whispered miserably, convinced, but 
trying to reassure him. "Aren t you just worried about this 
Conway business? There are other accounts, Mr. MacCrae 
gave you another chance, you ll get along all right." 

"No," he said. "I m not fitted for it, that s the trouble, 
Harriet. Tyler showed me that. He s a skunk, but he s 
right, Harriet. Men have to earn their living. You can t 
trust them and get along with them the way I did in col 
lege. I didn t know that, I ve been a fool, everybody s made 
a fool out of me. Tyler told me you ve got to be thinking 
about your work all the time, how to do a good job, trying 
to think of bright ideas, watching out to see that somebody 
else doesn t trip you up. I hate him, but by God he s right. 
And I just don t fit into all that. It scares me, Harriet, can 
you imagine, I m scared? I don t know what to do." 

"There, there," she said unconsciously, as if she were 
trying to put him to sleep, stroking his forehead, and his 
rumpled fair hair. "It ll be all right in the morning, Joel, 
you ll see." 

She began to think about their future and what she could 
do to help it. She really ought to look for a job, she sup 
posed, but she had no actual training for that either. She 
remembered a clipping she had seen in the Sunday papers 
advertising a home course in stenography. Fll borrow Pris s 
typewriter and try to learn it at home, she thought. Then 
I won t have to scare Joel, and I can be prepared if he 
should lose his job. She couldn t tell from his wild way of 
talking whether he was in danger of losing it or not. He 

i9 September i$3$-December 

was drunk, she must remember, and it was true MacCrae 
had thought enough of him to give him another chance 
Maybe he was unnecessarily scared, she d never have tc 
look for work. But it would be a good plan to be prepared: 
she d send for that course tomorrow. She would study 
while Joel was away, and perhaps she wouldn t even have 
to tell him what was in her mind. 

"Do you despise me, Harriet?" Joel said. She thought she 
had never seen him so defenseless, and it touched her, but at 
the same time she lost some of the feeling she had had of his 
superiority. She quarreled with herself for feeling that way. 
It s unjust of me to dislike him for being really honest with 
me. People rarely ever talk so freely; he s using me to argue 
out all his feelings. He s telling me everything, all the things 
that people may think to themselves at night, but that they 
keep to themselves in the daytime. I should be pleased and 
love him more deeply for it. He s talking to me as he would 
to his mother, but that s the trouble, it makes me feel like a 

Joel looked up and pulled at her hand and she realized 
that she hadn t answered him. "Do you, Harriet?" he said 
again, and she made herself speak warmly and instantly. 
"Of course not, darling," she told him. 

"I wanted to take care of you, you know that," Joel told 
her. "When we got married, I thought, you would never 
have to worry again, and never have to work so hard. But 
since then everything s gone wrong. You haven t got your 
own home any more, you have to work all day, taking care 
of my mother and sister. I ve brought you more worries 
than you ever had before." 

"But, Joel, dear," she said. "I don t mind. I d want to 


share everything with you. This is just temporary trouble, 
we ll get out of it." 

"No, no," he said insistently. "That isn t what I wanted. 
I wanted to make everything easy for you. I wanted you 
to have servants and nice clothes, and parties and things. I 
wanted to teach you not to be afraid of people and to know 
how lovely and attractive you are, and how people like 
you. I wanted you to have children and have nurses to take 
care of them, and I wanted to take you traveling and show 
you all the places you ve read about. Honestly, Harriet, I 
thought I could give you all those things. I thought I could 
be so good for you. I didn t know what I was asking you 
to take on." 

"But, honey," she said. "It doesn t matter. I ve never had 
those things anyway, how could I miss them?" 

"I wanted to teach you not to worry," he said, not pay 
ing any attention to her. "How do you like that! Not to 
worry. Now every minute of your day is something new 
to worry about." 

"I m perfectly happy, Joel," she said. She made her voice 
firm so that he would listen to it. "Listen," she said, shaking 
him slightly. "Do you hear me? I m happy, really I am." 

"Sure," he said. "You d be happy, because you re used to 
taking care of people. But I wanted you to have something 
more than that. I promised your father. I told him" 

"My father!" she said sharply. "What do you mean?" 

"Sure," Joel said. "I got a letter from him when we were 
married. I never showed it to you, he asked me not to. He 
said that he knew now he d never given you a normal child 
hood. He said you d worked hard for him all your life, and 
that he hoped that in marrying me you d be getting your 
reward. That made a big impression on me," he said, nod- 

192 September 19 ^-December 

ding his head. "I was your reward. I really thought I would 
be, Harriet. Your reward." His voice grew softer, it 
sounded almost as if she were going under ether, only it 
was he that was fading away, not she. Abruptly he had 
gone to sleep on her shoulder and she continued to sit there 
for a while, listening to his deep breathing and thinking. 
So her father realized that he had given her a meager life. 
And hoped that Joel would give her something better. She 
was touched, and repentant that she had thought he was so 
unaware. She wondered what he was doing now; it would 
be nice to see him again, she thought. But she couldn t af 
ford to travel right now and he would never come away 
from his work. She looked down at Joel and realized that 
his neck was a little twisted. Slipping away from under him, 
she held him up with her arms until she could put his head 
down straight on the pillow and pull his legs up so that he 
lay along the whole couch. She went to their closet and 
pulled down the down quilt that she stored up there during 
the day, and spread it over him. He rolled over, still in his 
sleep, and put his cheek on his hand contentedly. He 
looked relaxed and very defenseless, that way. 


January ig^o-March 


. ARRIET took the bottle of hand lotion from 
her bureau and began rubbing it into her hands. To keep 
them soft in this weather she had to use the lotion whenever 
she finished washing the dishes. She looked regretfully 
down at their redness. The girls she had seen in offices al 
ways managed to have such white, well-manicured hands. 
Hers would have to be like that if she started looking for 
a job. 

The apartment was quiet now. Joel had gone some hours 
ago to work, Pris had left, and Elaine was in her room do 
ing something or other. Harriet opened her desk and 
brought out the typewriting exercise book she had bought, 
and a sheaf of five-and-ten-cent-store yellow typing paper. 
She had borrowed Pris s typewriter, and she set it up on the 
floor beside her. She had a set of blank rubber caps for the 
keys which she began to fit onto them. Her hands were so 
dry and chapped that once or twice when they slipped in 
forcing on the caps, they bled. The sharp metal edges of the 
keys hurt her and she bit the inside of her lip with pain. 

When she finished she opened up the book to the first 
page and poised her fingers in the position required. Keep 
ing her eyes on the book, she began to type, feeling very 
conscious of her own clumsiness. Gradually, as she had to 
do the first exercise over and over again, she began to ac 
quire a certain rhythm, and she noticed that as long as it 
went steadily she made no mistake. Only now and again 
her mind interfered, interrupting the monotony of her 


196 January ip^o-March 1940: 

movements, and then she stumbled and pressed the wrong 
key, or hit one unevenly. 

After a while the work became pleasant. She enjoyed the 
little struggle of every fresh exercise, trying this time to do 
it perfectly, trying to keep her fingers steady and sure, and 
her touch even. Time after time she had to rip her paper 
out and begin again until she got the three copies of the 
first exercise perfected. But then she was pleased to realize 
that she had only spent an hour on it. The book said this 
was one day s work, but she went on ahead to the second 
page. The sooner she could get finished, the better. 

There was snow falling outside, and once or twice she 
glanced out of the window at it. It paled the gray sky, but 
it was not the large-flaked, pretty kind of snow. It sug 
gested dampness and cold and she was glad she was not out 
doors. Her fingers even after all this exercise still felt stiff, 
Joel had to go to see a man downtown today, she knew, 
and she wondered if he would be warm enough. 

Joel was so strange these days, she thought, her mind 
traveling freely, ahead of her fingers. He seemed to be 
ashamed that he had confessed his inadequacy to her and 
he had never mentioned it again. But he told her all about 
his work now, where she had never questioned it before. It 
gave him a kind of support, evidently, to talk to her about 
it, and she liked to hear. The only bad thing was that she 
felt she was gradually growing ahead of him in strength 
and independence. She tried to reproach herself for react 
ing that way. Probably every man was as full of doubts and 
uncertainties as Joel. Every man who was really honest. If 
she loved him genuinely, she should be glad that so many 
things were open between them. It wasn t fair to expect to 
lean entirely on him, she must be able to give him support 


too. But in spite of all her arguments, she knew that she had 
been happier the old way. There had been something excit 
ing and poetic about their marriage then. Perhaps, she 
thought, they were settling down. That period where both 
people seem strange and fascinating was over, because they 
knew each other too well. That was normal. The trouble 
was that she hated to lose that sensation now. It was wrong 
and unintelligent of her, but she hated to see it go. 

Her fingers worked better when she was preoccupied 
with something else, she noticed suddenly, and as she 
thought about it she made a mistake at the bottom of the 
exercise. She pressed her lips together in irritation and pa 
tiently finished the page before she started it over again. It 
would be so long, she thought, before she would be expert. 
Three months, the book said. Three months of working 
hard and never seeing an end to accomplish. But she would 
feel safer for all of them if she had this ability. She went 
steadily through the work again and this time did it per 
fectly. One out of her three copies now. Before the day 
was over she would finish the second lesson. 

As she rolled another sheet of yellow paper into the car 
riage, somebody knocked at the door, and she frowned a 
bit to herself. It must be Elaine, and she wondered what she 
wanted. She had so little time that was free for working, 
and she hated to be interrupted. 

"Come in," she called, and turned to look over her 

Elaine came in timidly, closing the door carefully be 
hind her. 

"Hello, dear," she said. "What are you doing? Busy?" 

"I m practicing typewriting," Harriet explained to her. 
"I thought Fd like to learn." 

198 January ip^o-March 1940: 

"That s a good idea," Elaine said. She came over to the 
desk and sat down on the window seat, blocking Harriet s 
light. When Harriet looked at her inquiringly, she only 
smiled and made no explanation of her visit. 

"Is there something I can do for you?" Harriet asked, 
finally, impatient to go on with her work. 

"No, thanks, dear," Elaine said. "Go right ahead, don t 
let me disturb you." She settled back against the corner of 
the window. She was still wearing her padded bathrobe, 
Harriet noticed. She rarely ever got dressed until dinner 
time now, and she made no attempt to fix her hair or make 
herself attractive. It looked strange, she had always been so 

Harriet thought, I ll go ahead with my work and not give 
in to Elaine s obvious desire to talk. She wanted to keep her 
company, but this was more important and she must estab 
lish a precedent. If she could only have these morning hours 
free in the next few months, she would devote all the rest 
of her time to Elaine. She was sorry for her, she had so little 
to do and so few resources to fall back on. But she mustn t 
give in now or she would have to give in entirely. She 
switched the desk lamp on and began to type again. Elaine 
sat quietly, swinging her feet a little, and the room grew 
still, so that Harriet s typing sounded loud and metallic. 

Presently Elaine moved, and put her feet down on the 
floor and her hands on either side of her as if she were about 
to get up. Harriet couldn t resist looking at her, and Elaine 
smiled immediately. "There s a draft coming in the window 
here," she said. "I m going to sit in the armchair, I believe." 
She moved over to the little armchair on the other side of 
Harriet, and picked up the typewriter cover to use as a 
footstool. "There," she said. "That s more comfortable." 


Harriet tried to force herself to smile. She wanted so 
much to be left alone, but there was something pathetic and 
sweet about Elaine; she shouldn t be hurt. 

"I m sorry I can t be more hospitable," she said; "but I 
want to finish up today s lesson." 

"Of course," Elaine said reproachfully. "I don t want to 
interrupt you at all. Is the book divided into regular les 

"Yes," Harriet said. "I don t have much more to do to 

She went ahead slowly, but Elaine s sitting there dis 
turbed her and she kept making mistakes. She tried to go 
too fast, and the keys went up together and stuck, so that 
she had to reach out and pull them down again. Her finger 
tips became inky and she left blotches on the paper when 
she handled it. 

"You ll be able to write all our letters for us, when you 
learn," Elaine said happily. She was watching Harriet ear 
nestly as if she hoped to entice her attention away from her 

"Yes," Harriet said, smiling at her. She went on typing, 
her fingers clumsy and her mind restless under its irritation. 

Elaine sat quietly for a while and then got up and walked 
across the room. Harriet forced herself not to turn and see 
what she was doing, but she could hear her pulling books 
out of the bookshelf and putting them back again. 

"You certainly have a lot of books here," Elaine said 
finally. Harriet found that she had been waiting for her to 
speak. "Do you read all of them?" she heard her ask. 

"I have at one time or another," Harriet said. "I ve been 
collecting them ever since I was a little girl." 

"My," Elaine said. She came back to her armchair and sat 

200 January ig^o-March 194.0 

down again. "I think that s awfully nice," she said. "Mj 
children never read much and neither do I. Mr. RandolJ 
read, but he didn t like novels and I never cared for hi 
books. They were generally about economics or history oj 
something dull like that. You read novels, don t you?" 

"Yes," Harriet said. "I ve got quite a few of them. DC 
you want to pick out one? Maybe you d find something 
there that would interest you." 

"Oh, no, thanks, dear," Elaine said. "I can never concen 
trate long enough to read a book. The minute I pick one up 
I start thinking about something else." 

Harriet could think of nothing to say. She had hoped for 
a moment to find something to occupy Elaine, but evidently 
that was useless. 

She held her hands poised over the keys, not wanting to 
seem rude, but anxious to go on, and then, when Elaine said 
nothing more, she continued with her work. She finished 
another perfect copy of the exercise and felt pleased. As she 
rolled a piece of paper into her carriage, Elaine stood up 
and picked up the lesson book. "May I just look at this a 
second?" she asked Harriet. "I wanted to see what sort of 
things you had to do." She turned the pages of the book. 
"Why don t they teach you real words?" she asked. "These 
are just letters." 

"They want you to learn the keys and familiar letter 
combinations first," Harriet said. "Words come later." 

"Oh, yes, I see," Elaine said. "Then you get to write real 
letters and things, don t you? Perhaps I ought to try to 
learn. It might be something for me to do." 

"I ll lend you the book when I m finished with it," Har 
riet said firmly. She reached up her hand for it and Elaine 
gave it to her, reluctantly. 


"All right/ she said. She sat down again and crossed her 
legs. The pause had evidently encouraged her, because she 
went on. "I think I ought to get myself something to do," 
she said. "I get awfully bored sitting at home all day." 

Harriet swung around in her chair to face her. "Why 
don t you take up knitting for the Red Cross?" she said. 
"You knit, don t you?" 

"Not very well," Elaine said. "I used to enjoy doing it 
every now and then, but I couldn t knit something that 
would really be good. I d be embarrassed to send any of my 
work in." 

"Oh," Harriet said. She gave up the idea quickly. If she 
encouraged her, Elaine might decide to experiment and if 
she was a poor knitter, she would waste a lot of money on 

"No," Elaine went on. "I ought to have some real work 
that would be useful to the family, I think. Do you think 
typewriting would be useful?" 

"Well," Harriet said slowly. She would like to find some 
thing to keep Elaine busy, but she couldn t believe that she 
would have much use for the typewriting once she had 
learned it. 

"I thought of trying to write a book," Elaine said. "Those 
Clarence Day books seem to be so popular and you know 
I was brought up in New York too. Maybe I could write 
something like that. Sort of memoirs. Do you think so, 

Harriet was embarrassed to know what to say. "I don t 
know, Elaine," she said. "You have to write very skillfully 
and charmingly to do that sort of thing, you know." 

"Well, I had a very interesting childhood," Elaine per 
sisted. Harriet was silent, thankful at any rate that Elaine 

202 January i^o-March 1940: 

didn t seem to want answers. She was using Harriet as 
somebody to think out loud to. "I don t know though, she 
went on. "That might be a great deal of work. And I don t 
think there s much money in books. I used to know a man 
who wrote, and he never had much." 

"Don t worry about that, Elaine," Harriet said. "We re 
getting along all right. Now that Kit is doing so well for 
herself, Joel doesn t have that responsibility." 

"Oh, I know we won t starve," Elaine said. "But I want 
to give the children something more than that. The little 
luxuries, you know. What my father used to call gracious 
living. That s what Fd like them to have." 

"Well," Harriet said, unable to answer since she wasn t 
particularly sympathetic. "Perhaps, but they re happy 
enough this way, don t you think?" 

"Joel isn t," Elaine said shrewdly. "Fm sure you know 
that, Harriet. And Fm worried about Pris too." 

Harriet didn t want to discuss the new, unhappy weak 
ness in Joel with her, and she tried to pass over it lightly. 
"They just like to fuss," she said, smiling. "The trouble 
with you, Elaine, is that you re bored. Why don t you try 
calling up some of your friends? You don t go out enough." 

Elaine said bitterly, "What sense is there in calling up 
my friends? I can t entertain them, and it would be embar 
rassing to me to accept their entertainment. I don t have 
any decent clothes any more. I haven t bought one new 
thing this year, except a couple of pairs of stockings. Fm 
not fit to be seen." 

"But they won t care about that," Harriet said. "I mean 
your real friends." 

"It wouldn t give me any pleasure," Elaine said stub 
bornly. "No, Harriet, Fve made up my mind about that." 


Harriet sat looking at her in despair. It was obvious that 
she must give up the typewriting for today, and put her 
mind to this development. It was true that Elaine was alone 
a great deal of the time, and that she had nothing to do with 
herself. At night when Joel came home and Pris and Har 
riet were there, she brightened up, and the others had no 
indication of the bored, whining person she became when 
they were away. Harriet had once tried to talk to Pris about 
it, but Pris had only laughed and said, "Don t worry about 
her, Harriet, she ll learn to get along in time." 

The trouble with Elaine was that she was really stupid/ 
Her children had been amused at her for years, and it had 
taken Harriet some time to realize that Elaine s gentle, inane 
remarks were generally made quite seriously. Only she was 
used to having people laugh at them and she was never of 
fended by it. She had no sense of humor and very little 
strength of mind. But because she happened to have a 
lovely, sensitive face, and excellent taste in dressing herself 
and arranging her home about her, none of this was very 
apparent to the people who didn t know her well. She was 
a delightful background to the family when they were all 
together. She was a part of their charm, she presented some 
of their humor, she was a talking point, and she was inter 
ested in their comfort. But without her family, and they 
were away a great deal now, she had no function at all. She 
didn t know how to amuse herself and she hated work. 
There was nothing that entertained her except her own 
children and their families. It was ironic that the two people 
who took the most care of her were Harriet, and Gray who 
often came over to take Elaine for walks. And they were 
neither of them directly related to her. 

204 January ly^o-March 1940: 

She said gently to her, "What about that dress you were 
going to fix over, Elaine? Have you done that yet?" 

Elaine looked across at her rather shrewdly. "I m in your 
way, aren t I?" she asked. 

Harriet held her breath in exasperation for a second and 
then let it go. Well, that was that. You couldn t be harsh 
with Elaine even if you knew it was the worst of foolish 
ness to encourage her. "No, of course not," she said hastily. 
She pushed her hair back from her forehead and began 
stacking the papers and exercise book together, and putting 
them away in her desk drawer. She would simply have to 
give them up for the time being. 

She looked around the room helplessly. There wasn t 
even anything to talk about. If she let Elaine start rem 
iniscing, she would become frightened and tearful again, 
and apart from reminiscence, she had very little to say. 
What would amuse her? Joel had brought a new copy of 
Vogue home from the office. Perhaps they could look at 
that together. Elaine wouldn t look at it alone, but she liked 
clothes and they would be something to talk about. 

It was too bad, Harriet thought. Even most children, if 
you gave them a magazine, would at least be amused by 
cutting out paper dolls or looking at the pictures by them 
selves. But Elaine had to have company w r hen she was 

"By the way, Elaine," Harriet said to her. "Did you see 
the new Vogue that Joel brought home last night?" 

She got the magazine out of the little rack beside the desk 
and perched on the arm of Elaine s chair to show it to her. 


Joel had come home late from the office and was in the 
bathroom washing his face and hands. He had taken off his 
coat and opened up his shirt collar, and Harriet, who was 
sitting on the edge of the tub talking to him, looked lov 
ingly at the dark strong line of his throat coming out of the 
starched white linen. 

"How was it today?" she asked him finally. He expected 
that now. He came home wanting to tell her about all the 
things he had done that day, but he could never find the 
start himself. 

"I tried writing some copy for the Saunders account," he 
told her. "I think it was pretty good, too." 

"Is that your account?" she asked him. The name was 
unfamiliar to her. 

"No," he said. He turned the water on again, letting it 
run over his soapy hands and gathering it up in them to 
rinse his face. "It s Tim Wilson s. But I didn t like the way 
he s been running it lately and I thought if I could do a 
sample of what I meant I d have a better talking point when 
I took it to MacCrae." 

Harriet reached behind her and flipped down a towel for 
him. He turned towards her to take it, bending his head to 
plunge his face into it. "Isn t that rather hard on Tim Wil 
son?" Harriet asked him. 

"Oh, no," he said, taking his face out of the towel and 
looking at her. "We re encouraged to contribute any ideas 
we may have. It s all right, everybody does it, it won t hurt 
Tim." His skin was splotched red and white from the hard 
rubbing he had given it, and she watched the color grad 
ually even out into its normal areas. 

206 January ly^o-March 

"Well," she said slowly. She was afraid whenever he was 
confident now. Ever since he had told her all his doubts, 
that afternoon, she had had them too. She tried desperately 
to guess what effect the things he did would have on his 
employers, but it was hard to see things from that point of 

"Do you think I ought to shave?" he asked her abruptly, 
looking at himself in the mirror and fingering his chin. 

"No, you look all right," Harriet said in surprise. "Any 
way, we re not going out tonight, are we?" 

"Pris is bringing Kenneth to dinner," he said. "I met her 
on the bus coming up, and she was in her usual dither about 

"Oh, Lord!" Harriet said. "She didn t say anything about 
it to me. I wonder if we have enough. It certainly isn t very 

"I think she wants to impress him with our simple, homey 
surroundings," Joel said casually, throwing the towel down. 
Harriet automatically stooped and picked it up again to 
hang it on the rack. 

"Well, all right," Harriet said. "It s her young man. Per 
sonally, I think she s using the wrong tactics. He s never 
going to marry anybody who has less money than he has. 
He d distrust them too much." 

"What makes you say that?" Joel asked her. 

"I don t know," she said thoughtfully. "The way he 
talked, I guess." She laughed. "He s scared to death of being 
married for his money." 

"I didn t get that impression at all," Joel said. "And I 
think you re just imagining it." 

"Maybe," Harriet said. She looked at her own face in the 


mirror and picked up Joel s comb to run it through her 
hair. Joel laughed. 

"That lad certainly impresses this family," he said. "Even 
you re dolling yourself up." 

"It s Pris that impresses me, not Kenneth," Harriet said. 
"She s so set on him." 

"I feel sorry for that poor fellow," Joel said, smiling to 
himself. "She s going to get him sooner or later, by golly." 

"Joel, we oughtn t to joke about it," Harriet said, putting 
down the comb. "I m worried about her. You don t think 
she ll really marry him, do you? She s not in love with 

"She will if she can," Joel said. 

"Doesn t that shock you?" Harriet asked him. "Don t 
you think they d be unhappy?" 

"There s always divorce," Joel said. He picked up his tie 
and began running it under his collar, bending his knees a 
little so that he could see into the mirror. 

"And alimony, I suppose," Harriet said. "You re as ridic 
ulous as she is." 

"It s her own business," Joel said. "Personally, I married 
for love." He grinned and turned around to kiss her, and 
she was distracted for the moment. 

Joel returned to his tie, knotting it firmly and turning 
down the ends of his collar over it. 

Somebody knocked on their door. Harriet went out 
through the bedroom to open it and Pris stood there with a 
bottle in each hand. "Did Joel tell you I asked Kenneth to 
dinner?" she said. 

"Yes," Harriet told her. "What s that? For cocktails?" 

"Umm," Pris said. 

"Well," Harriet said, laughing. "Maybe you ll make up 

January ig^o-March 

for the quality of the food. Joel, why don t you help Pris 
get ice and things. I ve got to take a look at the dinner." 

They went down the hall together and Harriet turned 
off to go into the kitchen. There a large pot of Irish stew 
was bubbling and it seemed like something human in the 
room, animating it. Her dishes had been stacked neatly in 
the wire dryer, and the dinner plates were piled on a corner 
of the stove to warm them. She wouldn t start the rest of 
the meal yet, she decided. Kenneth hadn t come and they 
would probably like to take their time with the cocktails. 
She looked around to see if she had forgotten anything. 
Elaine came in behind her and stood with her arms out as 
Harriet turned around. "I got myself a new dress," she said. 
"How do you like it?" 

Harriet realized, shockingly, that she hadn t seen Elaine 
lovely like this for a long time. She was almost speechless 
in her excitement about the dress. It was impossible not to 
smile at her pleasure, although Harriet knew that she must 
have taken the money out of their savings and they couldn t 
afford it. She said something admiring and Elaine squeezed 
her elbows to her sides and spun around girlishly, so tense 
and edgy in her pleasure that it looked as if she were going 
to burst out of herself. Harriet put her hand on her arm 
trying to calm her down. "You look lovely, Elaine," she 
said. "That blue is your best color." She kept her hand 
firmly clasped, holding her so that she could not dart away, 
making her gradually quiet down. She smiled finally, 
gently, and Harriet let go of her. "Why don t you show 
the others?" she asked. "Have they seen it yet?" 

"Not yet," Elaine said. "Pris will be so jealous." She 
looked down at the soft folds of the silk. "But she doesn t 
need a new dress as much as I do." 


Just then Pris and Joel came in with the silver ice-bucket. 
Joel whistled extravagantly. "Elaine!" he said. "You look 
like an angel. 5 She was pleased and coquettish. "Do you 
think so?" she asked, slowly turning around for him. 

"Beautiful," he said. 

"Goodness!" Elaine said, smoothing her skirt. "I love 
having new clothes." She looked at all of them radiantly 
and they smiled at her. None of us could be angry at her for 
spending the money, Harriet thought. She hasn t been so 
happy for a long time. 

The doorbell rang, startling all of them. 

"Oh, Lord, that s Kenneth," Pris said. "Joel darling, you 
get the ice, will you? I ll go answer it. Do I look all right?" 
She dashed off before they could answer her. 

"Ill go and say hello to him," Elaine said. "Come along 
as soon as you can, Harriet and Joel. You re going to hold 
the dinner a while, aren t you, Harriet?" 

"Yes," Harriet told her smilingly. She watched her leave 
and Joel moved to the icebox to take out a tray of cubes. 
"Here, darling," she said. "I ll do that." 

She turned the icetray under the water faucet, waiting 
patiently for the cubes to loosen and fall into the sink. Joel 
fixed a tray with the shaker and some of Elaine s fine crystal 
cocktail glasses. "Ready?" he said. He was eager to get out 
into the living room, and she hurried to put the ice into the 
bucket and set it on the tray for him. "Wait a second," she 
said, untieing her apron and throwing it over the back of 
a chair. "All right," she told him. She went through the 
dining room slightly ahead of him, but he came abreast of 
her as they reached the living room and they entered to 

Kenneth, who had been talking to Elaine, stood up. 

2ib January i$4.o-March 

"Hello," he said to them. Harriet had forgotten how big 
and red-faced he was and what an awkward manner he 
had. He continued to stand while Joel put the tray down 
on the little table, and Harriet settled herself in a chair. He 
made all of them feel uncomfortable because of his clumsi 

"Come on, Ken, sit down," Pris said. 

"Yes, do," Elaine urged him. "Joel will fix a cocktail for 

He sat down, still watching Joel, rather constrainedly. 
Harriet saw his big hands on his knees, sliding gently back 
and forth as if he found some kind of reassurance in the 
feel of the cloth. 

"How s your farm?" she asked him. He turned gratefully 
to her. 

"Oh, it s doing well," he told her. "Of course there s 
not so much to be done during the winter. That is, the 
truck-garden part of it. But the cows are in fine shape, and 
some of my breeding experiments have turned out very 

"You mean the laboratory experiments?" Harriet asked 

"No," he said. He looked a little embarrassed. "Not those. 
Somebody else beat me to that, unfortunately. A paper 
came out the other day in one of the cattlemen s trade 
sheets. But my experiments with my own cows are work 
ing very well. I m trying to get an increased butter-fat con 
tent, you know." 

"Oh, yes," Harriet said, nodding. 

"You don t have those nasty Holsteins, do you?" Elaine 
said. "They have so little cream, their milk is almost blue, 
it seems to me." 


"I have some," Kenneth told her. "But most of my herd 
is Guernsey." 

"They re pretty," Pris said. "I like Guernseys the best." 

Joel came over with their drinks, walking carefully so 
as not to spill them. "Why don t you make these women 
lay off you?" he said to Kenneth. "They don t know a 
darned thing about cows, anyway." 

"I can be interested, can t I?" Pris said, smiling at him. 
Harriet got the impression that it was because Kenneth 
was there that she smiled. 

"Well, there isn t much else for a hifk like me to talk 
about," Kenneth said. His banter was awkward, just as 
everything about him was. "I don t know what city people 
talk about, anyhow." 

"What everybody talks about," Joel said. He took a 
large swallow of his drink, and Kenneth, imitating him, 
lifted his glass too. "The war, the stock market, the Repub 
lican candidate for 1940, and so forth," His voice sounded 
a little bitter; Harriet guessed that he was tired of endless 
conversations in Wall Street bars on those subjects. 

"Let s don t talk about the war," Elaine said nervously. 
Harriet knew that although her objection sounded frivol 
ous, it was because the idea of war affected her more pow 
erfully than it did her children. To Elaine, the world 
belonged to her, linked somehow with her own career, 
and it was depressing to be reminded of it. 

"Yes," Joel said. "By all means, avoid it while you can." 
He looked at Kenneth with a sympathetic expression. 

They began to talk about the farm again, it was one of 
the few subjects which seemed to interest Kenneth, and 
Pris went over to the cocktail table for another round of 
drinks. She started to fill Kenneth s glass. 

212 January ly^o-March 1940: 

"Oh, I don t think so, thanks," he said, interrupting some 
thing Joel was saying. 

"Come on, Kenneth, you re in the bosom of the family 
for the whole evening, you might as well relax and let 
your hair down," Pris said. She moved his hand away and 
filled the glass. "Drink it down, now," she said. His face 
looked weak and young for a moment as she touched him, 
and Harriet guessed that he had to repress himself in his 
drinking as well as in almost everything else. 

"All right," he said feebly, and Pris went on to fill up 
the others. 

Harriet got up to go into the kitchen, but Joel caught 
her hand. "What are you doing?" he asked her. 

"Just going to fix dinner," she said. She smiled down 
at him. 

"Not yet," he said. "Give us time to enjoy our drinks, 
darling. It doesn t matter if. dinner s a little late. Does it 
bother you, Kenneth?" 

"No, not at all," Kenneth said. "Don t go, Harriet." 

Pris moved almost jealously close to him. "Harriet is 
always worrying about time," she said. "I feel like a real 
party tonight. Don t you, Ken? I don t want to think about 
time at all." 

"What s time?" Kenneth said, smiling foolishly. He had 
finished the second cocktail and the drinks were already 
beginning to affect him. Harriet felt alarmed. Evidently he 
repressed himself for good reason, if he couldn t hold his 
liquor better than that. 

She gave in to them and sat down on the couch between 
Elaine and Pris. The two men faced them on chairs which 
they had drawn in a little, out of their ordinary positions. 

"Before we were so rudely interrupted once before," Joel 


said to Kenneth, "we were discussing women and the war. 
Now, women don t like to hear men talk about war. 
They re all afraid we re going off to fight, isn t that right, 

"Yes," she said. "I suppose so. You make me nervous." 
She smiled at him, watching his young, excited face, and 
not feeling hurt that he made no response to her. 

"You see," he said to Kenneth. "It s purely personal, their 
attitude. If they didn t have any men, they wouldn t 

"I don t have any women to worry about me," Kenneth 
said. "My mother s dead and I m not married." 

"We d worry about you, Kenneth," Pris said. "You re 
our friend." 

He turned to look at her gratefully, and Harriet watched 
his face slowly change to suspicion, and saw him turn away 
without saying anything. Poor boy, she thought. 

"Anyway," Pris went on. "If women don t like to talk , 
about war, why bring it up now, Joel? This is a party, why 
don t we be pleasant?" 

"All right," Joel said easily. "If that s the way you feel. 
I ll mix another drink, instead." 

"Oh, I don t think" Kenneth said, evidently alarmed. 
But the others seemed to want one, and his speech faded 
off. He accepted the cocktail which Joel poured for him 
and looked at it dubiously. 

"Here s to war!" Joel said, raising his glass. 

"Well, I don t particularly like it," Kenneth protested. 
"But I want to help. See, I m a farmer, I can help right now. 
We farmers, we re important, you know that?" 

"Sure you are," Pris said eagerly. "And there s no need 
for you to get into the actual fighting. You re doing as 

214 January ip^o-March 

much good, maybe more good, by sticking to your work 
as you would be if you went out with a gun." 

"I don t know about that," Kenneth said. "If our coun 
try gets into this, I think I would enlist. I couldn t bear 
just to sit back and see other men doing the fighting for 


"So would I," Joel said carelessly. "But I don t think 
we re going to get into the war. There hasn t been much 
action in Europe, anyway. It looks to me like they re just 
in a deadlock. Either they ll sign a peace soon, or they ll 
just keep on the way they are until the Allies starve the 
Germans out. That s the way it looks to me." 

Harriet looked at Elaine. She saw her face, which was 
crumpled and depressed, turn with hope towards Joel. Ever 
since they had talked that day out in the kitchen, Harriet 
had been disturbed about her. She had no talent for es 
capism; the news in the paper, the war and its hatreds, were 
affecting her terribly. It would be better to give her some 
hope, Harriet thought, and she agreed with Joel, making 
her voice hearty and keeping her eyes on Elaine. "I think 
so too," she said. "I think you re right, Joel." 

She saw Elaine raise her head slowly, her face growing 

"Animals are nicer than people anyway," Kenneth said 
abruptly. "Animals don t fight wars. You can trust animals, 
you know just what they re thinking and how they re 
going to act. They re never selfish, except honestly selfish." 

"What a thing to say," Pris told him lightly. "You don t 
trust anybody, do you, Ken?" 

"Why should I?" he said sharply, and then, realizing 
perhaps that he had spoken too strongly, he smiled at them 


2I 5 

all. "Very few people are worth trusting," he went on, 
speaking more lightly. 

"Actually, I agree with you," Pris said. "I tease you 
about it, Ken, but you re right. You can t trust anybody. 
We ve learned that, haven t we, Joel?" 

"Yes," Joel said. His gray eyes were lowered and his 
face was sullen for a minute. Harriet felt a twist of com 
passion for him, knowing that he was thinking about his 
job again, and reached out to touch his foot with her own. 
But she was thinking about Pris too, and this new tone 
of hers. There were a great many hidden bitternesses in 
Pris, and there was no way of telling whether this was a 
real one. 

She watched her lean forward and put her hand on 
Kenneth s knee. "But you shouldn t worry so much, Ken," 
she said. Her tone was, to Harriet, almost unbearably pos 
sessive. "If you ve made up your mind that you can t trust 
anybody, you re safe. Just go your own way and don t 
let them get away with anything. You can be happy that 

"Is that honestly what you think?" Kenneth asked her. 
It was as if they were the only ones there. Harriet felt 
embarrassed, as if she were eavesdropping. 

"Sure," Pris said. "Shoot the works. Have a good rime, 
and don t worry about what people are thinking and doing. 
Don t bother about whether so-and-so wants something out 
of you or not. Just take his friendship while you have it. 
That s all." 

"That s all right," Kenneth said. "But what about your 
real friends? What about falling in love? Then you have 
to know whether people are sincere or not." 

"Why?" Pris said. "Pick the person that suits you most 

zi6 January i^o-March 1940: 

and to hell with their motives. You ll get along just as well 
that way as any other." 

She s tight, Harriet thought. She s talking like a lunatic. 
But Kenneth seemed to be taking her very seriously. There 
was a sort of community between them; their minds had 
reached the same fever height. Elaine and Joel and Harriet 
were fascinated by them as they went on. They were dis 
cussing past experiences, disregarding every honest motive 
in anybody they might have known. 

"Now I knew a girl in school," Pris said. She launched 
into a complicated story of schoolgirl treachery and her 
own disillusionment. It was told badly, full of "I saids" 
and "she saids," but Kenneth listened attentively. 

"Yes," he said. "I had something like that happen to me 
once," and he told his story, just as circumstantial, just as 
long. Harriet saw Joel yawning, but she was too caught by 
this wild, ridiculous talk to be bored by it. She began to 
wonder again if Pris were really sincere or if this were a 
carefully thought-out scheme to win Kenneth s trust. If it 
were it was very shrewd. By attacking the things he feared, 
she made him sympathetic with her, and in sympathy there 
was more real trust than in reason. But was Pris as clever 
as that? It was hard to tell about her. As far as ordinary 
conversation went, her vocabulary was as limited as a ten- 
year-old s. On the other hand, a lot of people deliberately 
limited their speech and their expression of ideas. With 
people of Pris s age particularly, it was a hang-over from 
the Hemingway tradition, their slang was florid, but noth 
ing else was. So that she had never been able to feel she 
really knew Pris. Everything she thought about her was 
guesswork. Elaine and even Kit tried to express them 
selves, but Pris held herself back. Maybe now she was tell- 


ing Kenneth things she really thought, or maybe it was 
part of an elaborate scheme, but whichever it was, she 
was having more success with him than she had ever had 

"I think this is all very depressing," Elaine said fretfully. 
"I thought we were going to have a party, Pris. I hate to 
hear you talk like that. It s shocking, really." 

Harriet saw Pris smile sideways at Kenneth and receive 
a sympathetic return smile before she reached over and 
patted Elaine s hand. "All right, darling," she said. "We ll 

"Excuse me," Harriet said, this time firmly, and got away 
to the kitchen before the others could stop her. She hated 
to leave. Her imagination and her curiosity had been stirred, 
and she wanted to see the end of it. But she knew that if 
she continued to listen, she might stay there all night and 
none of them would be fed. 

She went absent-mindedly about her preparations, feel 
ing cold and lonely out in the kitchen, with the friendliness 
of her drink still warming her stomach, and her longing 
to hear more of what was going on in the living room. How 
thoroughly I ve become one of the family, she thought 
to herself. Pris is almost as important to me as Joel would 
be and so are the others. I hadn t realized before how 
anxious I am to see things turn out well for her. I hope 
she s not making a mistake with this boy. He s twisted, he ll 
be hard to handle. I don t think he wants to marry her, 
and if she tricks him into it, he ll resent it. 

Laying the table in the dining room, she heard snatches 
of their conversation, and found that they were common 
place. But the clink of ice told her that they were having 
another drink and she heard their voices rising higher, 

2i8 January i^o-March 

whether friendly or in argument, and the tempo of the 
party increasing. 

Once Joel came out to her with a cocktail and insisted 
on her taking it. "What are you doing out here, darling, 
youVe been away so long," he said. 

"I m nearly through," she told him. "You can tell the 
others to come in and eat now if you want." 

She watched him summoning them in before she went 
out to bring in the platters of food. They came unwillingly, 
and none of them ate much. She had a feeling that they 
wanted to get back to their drinking, to the living room 
where they could cluster around each other without a 
table to interfere. They were in for a strenuous evening, 
she thought, smiling to herself, but it didn t matter much, 
since Joel didn t have to go to work in the morning. 

In the living room again, having left the dishes on the 
table after a protest from the others, she curled up her 
feet under her in the big armchair, and settled down almost 
sleepily to watch them. Joel had started mixing highballs 
right away, and she looked at the one in her hand, watching 
its yellow light with the lamp reflected through it, but 
her stomach revolted at the idea of drinking it and she 
held it off from her so that she couldn t smell the whiskey. 
Everybody else, even Elaine, attacked their drinks instantly. 
Pris had overridden all of Kenneth s protests, and Harriet 
had a feeling that after this he would put up no more argu 
ment. Pris is deliberately trying to make him tight, she 
thought. I wonder why. 

A warmth, from cigarettes and closeness, settled down 
on them and they shifted their chairs. Their heads bent 
closer together. The smoke lay gray above them in the 
room, and Harriet s eyes began to smart. They had started 


talking as soon as they were settled down again, about the 
government s reforestation scheme, but Pris was tired of 
that very quickly and she kept introducing little digs and 
amusing distractions. 

"Listen," she said finally. "What do I care about the 
government? I m not even a social security number to 
them. Fm a nonentity." 

"Why don t you get a job?" Kenneth said abruptly. 

"Because I don t want to," she said, just as sharply, and 
immediately saw that she had made a mistake. His face 
grew sullen again, the lowering of eyebrows, drawing to 
gether of lips, and wrinkling of the forehead made it darker. 
"I don t really need one," she said hastily. "And I don t ap 
prove of taking work away from people who need it." 

It was a specious argument, but Kenneth seemed to ac 
cept it, and instantly his face went back to its earlier 
smoothness. Harriet watched it with fascination, it was like 
seeing the sun rise, everything brightened. 

"Pris likes working around the house," Elaine said. "She 
does a great deal for us here, doesn t she, Harriet?" Harriet 
nodded, thinking of Pris s late mornings, and how she was 
away most of the afternoons. Lately she had given up all 
pretense of doing any of the work. 

Pris looked at both of them and frowned momentarily. 
She s realized that we re helping her, Harriet thought, and 
she doesn t like it, because she hadn t thought her inten 
tions were so obvious. Why am I helping her, anyway? I 
don t want to, but Elaine drew me into it. Elaine is working 
hard for Pris, and so is Joel, the way he keeps filling Ken 
neth s glass. They refuse to talk about her plans, or laugh 
me off when I worry about them, but they re all helping 
her. She began to feel resentful and for an instant had a 

220 January ly^o-March 1940: 

wish to meddle. But her old instincts came back and she 
kept silent. It s not my business, she thought. It s Pris s own 
affair, I have no right to interfere. 

"Turn on the radio, Joel," Pris said lazily. "This is a 
party, isn t it? Let s get some dance music." 

Joel got up obligingly, and turned the dials, waiting 
until the hum began and the little green magic eye lighted 
up before he adjusted them. They re all so amiable tonight, 
Harriet thought, that s part of the scheme. Just one big 
happy family for Kenneth s sake. The music, sweet and 
undistinguished, poured suddenly into the room, and be 
hind it you could hear people laughing and talking. It made 
Harriet suddenly lonely to think about them. They were 
having a good time as she and Joel had once, when they 
had gone dancing and drunk and eaten together and 
thought about nobody but themselves. 

"Come on, Ken," Pris said, getting up. "Let s dance." She 
held out her arms to him and he got up, almost reluctantly. 
They swung into the rhythm, and Joel came over to Har 
riet and put a hand on her arm. "Come on, darling," he 
said. "We haven t danced for a long time. Do you mind, 

"No, of course not," Elaine said. She looked happier than 
usual, and she moved her knees closer to the couch to give 
them room. Harriet stood up and went into Joel s arms. 
The strong, familiar feel of his body and the half-forgotten 
pleasure of dancing lulled the irritating suspicions in her 
mind. For the moment she let the worries go by and drifted 
in his lead. This was how she had once drifted always, 
whether in dancing or in anything else, following Joel, 
trying to think how he would want her to go. They moved 
smoothly together across the carpet which roughened their 


steps but which never tripped them, avoiding the move 
ments of Kenneth and Pris, keeping out of their way. Once, 
Harriet, looking over Joel s shoulder with her eyes half 
closed, saw Pris lurch and Kenneth s arm tighten around 
her waist, so that she was caught up to him, her legs dan 
gling stupidly. His young, prematurely grave face red 
dened and she saw muscles along his jaw stand out for a 
second and then subside. Joel turned and she could not 
see them any longer, but she pictured them still and for 
a moment her body was stiff and she followed badly. Then 
a pressure from Joel s arm reminded her of what she was 
doing and she relaxed again, smiling at him while they 
obeyed the rhythm. She was looking now at Elaine, sitting 
on the couch with her head nodding gaily to music and 
her eyes following their feet. She thought again, how easy 
it would be to make Elaine happy. A new dress and her 
children gay and amiable together, and she blooms out. We 
ought to be able to give her that. Joel and I together, when 
we get on our feet and Joel s job is going better, and per 
haps I m working too, we ll give her the luxuries that mean 
so much to her, we could do that. 

The music ended and they heard the splatter of applause 
from the audience. Kenneth and Pris joined, their clap 
ping sounding loud and solitary against the other blurred 

"That was lovely," Elaine said. "You haven t danced for 
a long time." 

The next piece began, a waltz this time, and Joel released 
Harriet and led her back to her chair. "Come on, Elaine, 
this is your specialty/ he said, and she got up, looking about 
at the others half apologetically. "Do you really want to, 

222 January i^o-March 2940: 

Joel?" she asked him. He grinned at her. "Sure," he said. 
"I had to dance with Harriet first to be polite." 

She giggled and let him put his arm around her. "Not 
too fast, Joel," she warned him, but her slim feet followed 
him skillfully and gradually their circles became more 
swooping and free and he increased his tempo as the music 
grew faster. 

Harriet watched them smilingly. They were nice to 
gether, Elaine s body was light in Joel s arms and you got 
the feeling of delicacy and precision from the way she set 
her feet down. Pris and Kenneth had subsided onto the 
couch together, throwing themselves down as if they were 
very tired and blowing out their breath. Now she looked 
at them to share her pleasure and was immediately embar 
rassed. Pris had taken Kenneth s arm and was looking up 
at him. She had just whispered something and her eyes, 
turned up, looked doglike and foolish. He had bent over 
her, there was an atmosphere of secrecy and heat about 
them. They make me uncomfortable, Harriet thought, 
there s a quality that s sly and pent up to their feeling. She 
remembered how Fulke and Pris had been together, so 
frankly affectionate. There was something too furtive about 
this sort of desire. 

She turned back to Joel and Elaine again for a pleasant 
contrast. The last emphatic bars of the music began and 
Joel tightened his hold and swung Elaine off her feet so 
that she spun around wildly. She laughed out loud, and 
when he put her down again she half staggered back to 
the couch, her cheeks very pink. "Oh," she said to Harriet. 
"That was wonderful! I haven t danced like that for ages." 
Harriet smiled at her affectionately and up again at Joel. 


He winked at her. "Don t try to kid us, Elaine," he said. 
"It s obvious that you ve been practicing on the sly." 

"No, really," she protested and then saw that he was 
teasing her and laughed. "I wish I had," she said. 

Pris got up and collected their empty highball glasses to 
fill them again. "This party is getting good," she said joy 
ously. "Here, Ken, drink it down." She put the glass in his 
hand, and sat down beside him again, handing Elaine hers. 

"I don t know why you always scream and howl when 
anybody suggests a dance, Ken," she said. "You re per 
fectly good." 

"I don t know, I just don t care for it usually," Ken 
neth said with a little embarrassment. 

"I know why," Pris said. "It s because you re scared of 
girls, that s why. You re scared to dance with them, aren t 
you, Kenneth?" 

"No," he said indignantly. "I m not scared at all. Where d 
you get that idea?" 

"Yes, you are," Pris insisted. "I can tell. Every girl you 
meet makes you tremble. Isn t that true, Kenneth, be hon 
est now." 

Joel laughed. "If they re all tiger women like you, Pris, 
it s no wonder," he said. 

Kenneth responded to his support. "That s right," he 
said. He was a little incoherent already, Harriet noticed. 
"They re tiger women," he said. "No wonder. But Pris 
isn t a tiger woman, are you, Pris?" 

"No," Pris said bitterly. *Tm the girl-graduate type. 
Damn it!" 

They laughed at her together, but Harriet felt troubled 
by their nervous quality. What s the tensile strength of a 
spirit, she thought? At what point does it break? 

224 January i^o-March 

"Now, the way I look at it is this," Joel said seriously. 
"It s very polite of you to insist that Pris is not a tiger 
woman, but I think you re doing her too much credit. Pris 
is a wolf in sheep s clothing, even if she is my own sister." 
"Joel!" Pris said, pushing at him half playfully, half 

Kenneth regarded Joel with equal seriousness. "Of 
course, you re her brother," he said, "and you ought to 
know. But I think you re mistaken. If you don t mind my 
saying so." 

"Not at all," Joel interrupted. 

Kenneth went on. "I grant you that her face is prob 
ably deceptively innocent. But just the same, there s some 
thing strong and honest about Pris. Good clean American 
womanhood, that s what she is." 
Joel laughed. "Oh, Lord," he said. 
"What s wrong with that?" Pris asked him indignantly. 
"Don t pay any attention to him, Kenneth. Have you ever 
seen me make a fire by rubbing two sticks together?" 
"Listen!" Joel said. "She can t even boil an egg." 
"She can too," Elaine said indignantly. "Joel, you ve 
had too much to drink. She cooked for all of us for 

"She s a fine girl," Kenneth insisted drunkenly. "And I 
want another drink." 

"Already!" Joel said. "My God, man, you re ahead of 
me." He drained his glass with one swallow, making a 
face after it. "We can t let that happen, can we?" he said 
to Harriet, who nodded worriedly. 

"Now Harriet is a really fine woman," Joel said over his 
shoulder to Kenneth. He had taken both of their glasses 
and was filling them. Harriet noticed that Pris had refused 


to have hers refilled. She s beginning to taper off a little, 
Harriet thought with relief. I wonder if she s as tight as 
she seems? 

"Is that so?" Kenneth asked politely. 

"Yes," Joel said. He came back and handed Kenneth 
his glass. "Harriet can do anything. She doesn t talk much, 
have you noticed that? But she really knows more than 
any of us. Harriet s real educated, aren t you, darling?" 

"I like an educated woman," Kenneth said. 

"And more than that, she s efficient," Joel said. "She 
could do anything. See. She s the kind of woman you d 
want to to take along with you to a desert island." 

"Kenneth is going to take me," Pris said. "I don t care 
what you say. You can have Harriet, but Kenneth is going 
to take me." 

"No," Kenneth said, drawing away from her* He looked 
suspicious again. "I m not going to take anybody to a 
desert island. I m not going to a desert island, anyway." 

"I was just joking, Kenneth," Pris said humbly. "We 
were just pretending." 

"Oh, Lord," Harriet thought. She looked at Elaine, but 
Elaine had a sleepy look, as if she were thinking about 
something else. As long as she heard the sounds of gaiety 
around her, she didn t mind what sort it was. Harriet sus 
pected that she probably often didn t listen to them. 

"I m going to take Elaine with me too," Joel said per 
sistently. "Not that she d be much good, but after all, damn 
it, she s my mother." 

"What, dear?" Elaine asked gently. The others laughed 
at her and she looked around at them confusedly. 

"Can I get you another drink, Elaine?" Pris asked her 

226 January ip^o-March 2940: 

"No, thanks," Elaine said. "To tell the truth, I m feeling 
awfully sleepy. I think I ll be going along to bed. What 
time is it, anyway?" 

"It s early," Joel said, looking at his watch. "It s only 

"I don t know why I m so sleepy," Elaine said. "But I 
just can t keep my eyes open." 

She made her excuses to all of them, but her departure 
didn t affect the conversation. Harriet began to wonder 
whether or not she could go to bed herself. Elaine was more 
privileged, being older, and it might look rude if she 

"Eleven o clock," Kenneth said thoughtfully. "I didn t 
bring my car. I d better be thinking about going. The last 
train leaves at 11:30." 

"Oh, no, Kenneth," Pris said. "The evening s too early 
to go. You can t leave now." 

"Oh, hell no," Joel said. "Don t run out on us now, we re 
not ready to go to bed yet." 

Harriet saw that it was Joel s appeal rather than Pris s 

that made Kenneth hesitate. He s not really fond of her, 

she thought, he s attracted by her, but it s not real affection. 

"I suppose I could stay in a hotel," Kenneth said. He was 

still reluctant. 

"No, stay here," Joel said. "We ve got room. The couch 

is really a bed, you know, we can make that up for you." 

"No," Pris said. "We ll put him in my room and I ll sleep 

on the couch. Theg you can sleep late in the morning, 


"No, that s too much trouble," Kenneth said. They 
argued with him, Pris excitedly, much too much so, and 
Joel putting in a more effective word every now and then. 


Kenneth finally gave in, looking almost despairing as he 
did. Harriet felt sorry for him again. He was obviously 
tempted. It was cold outside, and they were feeling warm 
and close with their drinks. To leave now would be inter 
rupting a mood. But his normal caution was probably 
against the idea and he had held out for a long time. 

"Now that that s settled," Pris said comfortably, "let s 
get back to the real business." 

"What was it?" Joel asked her. 

"Darned if I remember," Pris said. "What were we talk 
ing about, Kenneth?" 

"I don t know," he said. "I feel kind of woozy. I think 
I m tight." 

"Oh, no, oh, no," Pris said, laughing. "What a thing to 
say. Isn t it, Joel?" 

They began to pound him on the back, and evidently 
his qualm passed, because he began to laugh after a second, 
and protect himself. Pris was more ardent than Joel, and 
Kenneth finally caught hold of her hands and swung them 
around to his lap, letting her squirm. Harriet was annoyed 
to see how she continued to wriggle and rub up against 
him, and how, although he started to talk to Joel, he was 
conscious of it, and made uncomfortable by it. 

She decided fiercely that the next time Joel started out 
on a binge like this she would follow him drink for drink. 
If that s what he wants, I ll have to keep up with him, she 
thought. Fm miserable this way, it makes me feel sour and 
prudish to sit here and ^sapprove of th|p and think they re 
silly, but I can t help it. 

They continued drinking as they talked, not the sort 
of drink that was leisurely or an accompaniment to the con 
versation, but a sort of desperate seeking of the bottle, as 

228 January i^^o-March 1940: 

if they hoped something new would come out of it each 
time. Kenneth was drunker than the others, she saw; his 
was a sort of stupidity, a haze came over his movements 
and his speech. Joel and Pris were foolish, but there was 
a sharpness to them, even so. They continued as quick, 
while Kenneth slowed down in all has actions. 

She began wishing that they could go to bed. She was 
bored and distressed, and once or twice she felt almost 
like weeping. Joel had lost consciousness of her altogether, 
he was talking to Pris and Kenneth entirely, and the three 
of them thrust back and forth at each other with a kind of 
boisterous teasing. It was two o clock before Pris began 
to yawn. Harriet was not surprised, Pris hadn t taken an 
other drink since the first one she refused, and the effects 
must be wearing off on her. "Come on," she said imperi 
ously. "Let s all go to bed, I m sleepy." 

"Oh, hush," Joel said. "Nobody wants to go to bed, 

"Yes, they do," Harriet said, finally deciding to help. 
She couldn t keep awake any longer. "Come on, darling, 
it s awfully late." 

"You want to go to bed?" Joel asked, looking at her for 
the first time. 

"Ummm," she said, nodding, and smiling at him so as 
to coax him. 

"Everybody s got to help me make up the couch," Pris 
said. She got up so as to settle the argument and Kenneth 
got up too, looking awkwardly back at the couch as if he 
wondered how it could be made into a bed. 

Harriet got sheets and blankets and a pillow slip, and 
they went to work, all of them taking a hand. Only Har 
riet s corner was neat; they fumbled, and made a great fuss 


22 9 

about some minute wrinkle, leaving larger ones everywhere 
else. When it was finished it looked depressing in the mid 
dle of the living room with the glasses and bottles all 
around, and none of them wanted to stay up any longer. 
The white covers spelled an end to the evening very 

"Come on, Kenneth," Pris said. "I ll show you your room 
and get my pajamas and bathrobe out. Come on, this way." 
She took his hand and led him off down the hall. Harriet 
and Joel followed sleepily and turned into their own quar 
ters. The apartment was suddenly quiet, and when Harriet 
turned on the light it was pleasant to see her own tidy 
room, and their own personal possessions around them. 

Joel took a long time about undressing. With every gar 
ment he took off he turned around to tell Harriet something 
else, a jumble of stories about his office, about college days, 
about the number of drinks he had had. She would have 
been annoyed, except he was both amusing and touching, 
standing there and waving his hands, with his hair mussed 
up. She was in bed long before he was and sat waiting for 
him with the covers pulled up under her chin, and her 
arms wrapped around her knees underneath. But when he 
had finally turned out the light and gotten into bed, he 
was the first to go to sleep. She lay awake for several min 
utes more, listening to his breathing. Kenneth and Pris 
were still talking together in Pris s room, she heard, and 
she wondered if Pris were having trouble finding her things. 
But she was sleepy herself, and she went to sleep before 
she thought any more about it, turning so as to bury her 
head on JoePs shoulder. 

It was nearly dawn when she woke up again and she 
lay for a minute wondering why her eyes smarted so and 

230 January i^o-March 1940: 

her mouth felt so dry. She was desperately thirsty but it was 
cold and she hated to get up. She argued with herself for 
a long time, trying to go back to sleep again, but her brain 
became more active and the thirst became more impor 
tant. She got up finally, climbing over Joel s relaxed body, 
finding her slippers and her flannel robe on its hook on the 
closet door. When she got out in the hall, she saw a patch 
of light coming in from the living room windows, part 
dawn light and part street lamp, a cold, mixed, grayish- 
yellow glow that made her feel lonely. She filled her glass 
quickly in the bathroom and drank all of it and half of 
another. Some water fell on her chin and she wiped it 
off with the little hand towel hanging over the basin. She 
liad not bothered to close the bathroom door and now she 
heard a noise out in the hall and turned silently in her felt 
slippers to see what it was. 

Someone was standing in the gray pool and Harriet was 
suddenly frightened. Instinctively her hand reached out 
and she switched on the electric light. It was Pris, wrapped 
in her light blue quilted robe, her face above it rosy and 
her eyes bloodshot. Her fair hair fell forward over her 
forehead, unbecomingly. It looked as if it had been rum 
pled unceasingly. Harriet stared at her stupidly for a sec 
ond, wondering why she looked so defiant, and why she 
was so silent. Then she noticed that her hand was still 
holding the doorknob to Kenneth s room. As she saw Har- 
riet sA|pk, she dropped it and turned half away. She smiled 
now^smile that dared Harriet to say anything, and went 
off down the hall without speaking. Harriet stood still 
watching her, shocked and afraid. 



Harriet sat in one of the stiff-backed chairs of the Brook 
lyn Academy of Music. It had been raining when they 
had come in and now that the concert was nearly over, the 
combination of human warmth and wet wool was stifling. 
Joel, beside her, was listening with an attentiveness that told 
her he was bored. She felt a little stir of repentance now, 
although she had held him to his promise to come. She had 
bought the tickets so long ago and looked forward to it 
for so many weeks. But now she was not listening herself, 
her thoughts kept dumbly going over the last few days 
trying to make a pattern of them. 

The pianist was playing the Schumann Davidsbundler 
pieces which she had heard so many times that her mind 
no longer had to strain to follow them. She leaned back a 
little and the music became a background rather than the 
important thing in her mind. Her father had always liked 
the Davidsbundler and when they had heard them at the 
rare concerts in Ohio, New York and Illinois that he could 
afford, he had told her what to listen for in them. Later they 
had bought a recording of them to play for theritselves 
whenever they wanted. It was the sort of music her father 
would like, she thought; there was very little emotion at 
tached to it, for those who wanted a surface emotion. But 
underneath there was something truer, because to reach it 
you had to have real understanding. Just as her father had 
understood her and she had never realized it. The day he 
had died, she had received a telegram from her Aunt Lucy, 
letting her know of his death, and also a letter from her 
father himself, which must have been written several days 
before. She had found it hard to make herself open it, and 

232 January i^o-March 1940: 

when she had read it, it had made her even more unhappy. 
He told her of his illness, and that he had been thinking 
of her a great deal. "An old man in bed revives his past," 
he had written in his formal way. "The fullest part of my 
past were the years with you. I think now that I was 
remiss, in not paying the attention to you that a young girl 
probably wants. I always thought that you would develop 
better by yourself, and I think I was right, but I m also 
afraid that I made you unhappy sometimes and ever since 
you have married, I have been afraid that that unhappiness 
drove you into something you might not have chosen if 
you had felt that the life I gave you was good. You write 
me about the Randolfs and how fond you are of them and 
how happy you are with them. But there are sentences and 
phrases in your letters now and then which make me won 
der why you should be. Forgive me for my frankness, it s 
only because I m ill and I love you, but they sound to me 
like a pretty superficial lot. Isn t that so? If it is, why do 
you love them so much? They are handsome, you say, and 
seem to attach importance to that, and they are gay. But 
I am afraid of that kind of gaiety. It so often comes from 
a sort of thoughtlessness. Heaven knows, I don t want a 
somber life for you, especially now when you re so young, 
but I want a safe life for you. There are people in every 
civilization who swim along with the crowd because they 
.are carried by them. These people have no qualities of real 
independence, they are not reliable, but they are charm 
ing in the manner of the time, and somebody takes care 
of them. What troubles me now is that we are in a chang 
ing time, and I am afraid that the charm which has car 
ried the Randolfs will go out of fashion and they will be 
left stranded. If that happens, either you ll break away 


from them with a great deal of pain and disillusionment, 
or you ll carry the whole burden of them yourself. You 
could do it. You re small and shy, you used to touch me, 
you were so gentle, but you have a hard core of self- 
reliance, and you won t admit there is anything you can t 
do. You won t starve by yourself, or sacrifice whatever 
principles you cherish. But with the drag of that family 
on you, you will have a much harder time than you would 
have by yourself. Is this terribly gloomy, my dear? Un 
doubtedly you will think so, perhaps you are even now 
fresh and happy after some party. But don t throw it away 
in anger. I am worried about you, and in a sense this is 
my apology for what I see now must have looked like years 
of neglect to you. Don t let it make you angry. 

"I have been thinking about wills," he went on to say, 
"which is gloomy too, but which it would be silly to ignore. 
I have left you what I have, which isn t much. The house 
and a bit of money. Please, my dear, save the money if 
you can. I want it to be an escape fund for you. I want 
you to have it as a reserve in case these Randolfs prove too 
much for you. And even though you probably can t im 
agine such a thing now, will you hang on to it for a while 
at least, for my sake? I ve always felt that you can t impart 
experience to anybody else, and I brought you up on the 
theory that you must discover things for yourself. But I 
may have to leave you and then there will be nobody to 
stand by and perhaps pick you up when you fall. So for 
give me for trying to prevent the fall." 

Perhaps if the letter had reached her before the news 
of his death it would have made her angry and she would 
have forgotten about it as quickly as she could. But com 
ing afterwards, she was softened towards him and she 

234 January i^o-March 1940: 

read it over again more than once, giving it a considera 
tion she might not have otherwise. That was why it had 
been troubling her ever since. That was why, when she 
made the bleak trip to Ohio, and went through all the 
sad business of closing up the house, arranging for its sale 
and packing her father s few things, most of which were 
books, she had thought about the days she had spent here 
with a kinder feeling than she had ever had for them be 
fore. She told herself it was an unnatural sort of nostalgia, 
caused by her sorrow, but it was unmistakable that there 
had been a kind of evenness to her life there which seemed 
more real to her now than the full, disturbing life of the 

When she had returned with all the business attended 
to, she had been disappointed in Joel. Something had set 
tled on him and he was sulky and moody. She had ex 
pected him to cheer her up, to console her, but he had 
acted towards her like a bored stranger, like someone who 
sits next to you at a party and wants to talk to somebody 
else. In the three days she had been back he had not shown 
her one sign of real intimacy. Even coming to this concert 
tonight, he managed to look unwilling and unhappy, and 
she would have preferred one of their amusing arguments 
in which he always won, simply by taking it for granted 
that he would. 

The pianist struck his last chords and she was roused 
by the noise of applause. Joel, next to her, clapped his 
hands, holding them cupped so that he was very loud. The 
pianist bowed, and with little further urging sat down 
again for an encore, and Harriet, half smiling, saw Joel 
turn his eyes up in despair. "Come on," she whispered to 


him. "I don t care about the encores, we might as well go 


He accepted her decision immediately and reached 
around to help her into her coat. She was still enough ab 
sorbed in her own problems not to feel self-conscious as 
they went out under the curious stare of the elderly ladies 
and gentlemen sitting there. The rain on her face was good 
as she stood waiting for Joel to put up his umbrella, and 
when she caught his arm she felt pleasant again. Joel, how 
ever, was silent as they walked to the subway, and she had 
been sufficiently drawn out of herself now to notice his 
moodiness. Her brief content disappeared as they plodded 
along and she watched his heavy face. Why didn t he say 
something pleasant, she thought, what was the matter with 
him nowadays, he was always gloomy! 

They went down the subway steps through dark, smelly 
puddles and stepping over ground, pulpy bits of paper. 
Very few people were on the platform; it was not the at 
mosphere that makes the subway friendly or a good haven 
from the rain. It was quiet and moldy and underground, 
and it made Harriet want to whisper. The one or two men 
and women who were there looked at them with curious 
eyes, and she wished that Joel could talk to her in his old 
unself-conscious way and draw her out of herself so that 
she wouldn t care. 

"Well, did you like the concert?" Joel asked her, half 
defiantly, and she flared up at him without reason. 

"I don t see how I could," she told him. "With you sit 
ting there glooming all the time." 

"I didn t say anything, did I?" Joel said. "You were the 
one who wanted to go. I didn t argue. I can t help it if I 
don t enjoy music, you know." 

236 January ly^o-March 

"Well, there s no need to spoil my enjoyment," she said. 
"You could have at least pretended you were having a 
good time." 

Her throat felt scratchy and she knew her nose was red. 
She was beginning to catch a cold, her bones were tired. 
She hated herself for being so unpleasant, but she felt 
weakly that she couldn t do anything about it. 

"You should have gone by yourself," Joel said sullenly. 
"Then you could have had a good time." 

"Oh, yes," she said angrily. "And come home all by 
myself in all this rain, at night on the subway. All the way 
up to noth Street." 

"Well, my God!" Joel said. "You re certainly hard to 
please. What do you want, a lap dog, for a husband?" 

She felt curiously vicious, as if she wanted to lash out 
at the weather, at her wretchedness, at the vague thoughts 
her father had caused to torment her, all at once in the 
person of Joel. It wasn t really a mental process at all, 
something in her brain had released and she was going in 
neutral without control. "No, not a lap dog," she said. 
"Just somebody that s a little civil. Or would that be too 
much to ask?" 

The subway train came in just then drowning out Joel s 
answer, and she could only see his lips moving. It was 
strange, he didn t look angry, there was a sort of irritable, 
whining expression on his face. 

He took her arm roughly and helped her onto the train. 
There were plenty of seats. The yellow light was harsh 
on the few people there. A drunk sprawled against one 
arm of the seat near the door, and two colored women, 
loaded down with paper bags and bundles, were talking 
together, their soft, high voices coming intermittently over 


2 37 

the noise of the train. A very young boy and girl sat with 
locked arms, and she smiled up at him intimately. They 
made no attempt to talk against the noise, only smiled at 
each other as if everything were beautiful and a joke. 

Harriet sat down, feeling the water which had come over 
the tops of her rubbers squelch against her shoes. Her feet 
had been hot in the concert hall, but now they were cold 
and wet, and she felt as if she could hardly bear them. 

Joel shook the drops off the folded umbrella and leaned 
it against his knee. His heavy raglan-sleeved coat looked 
warm and prosperous and his face was ruddy in the right 
places from the damp. Only the sour, injured look to his 
mouth spoiled his effect. She frowned and looked away 
from him, absent-mindedly reading the ads overhead. All 
the people in them looked so bright and warm. Women 
in gaily colored woolen bathrobes leaned forward at her, 
showing white teeth and holding up a can of tooth powder. 
Two men in a locker room had their feet up on a bench 
clad only in underwear and looking warm in spite of it. 
The train jerked, and she was thrown against Joel s arm. 
He moved slightly and said to her, raising his voice a little 
to be heard, "I suppose you d rather have one of those 
powder-puff intellectual boys your father always had 
around. They d like your damned concert, all right." 

"Oh, let s not talk about it," she said tiredly. She still 
had no control, but she was too weary even to argue. 

JoePs mouth shut firmly. "It s damned hard to have a 
wife who thinks she s superior to you," he said. 

Harriet flared for an instant. "I don t!" she said indig 
nantly. "I ve never done one single thing to make you 
think that, either." 

"Oh, no," Joel said. His voice was like a nasty little boy s, 

238 January i^o-March 1940: 

jeering at her. "What about learning to typewrite behind 
my back the way you ve been doing for three months? 
You thought I didn t know about it, didn t you?" 

"I can t see anything about that that would make you 
think I was being superior," Harriet said coldly. 

"I suppose you re just learning for fun," Joel said. "What 
are you doing it for if you don t think you ll have to go 
out and get a job? You re afraid I can t support you, aren t 

"I never thought it would come to that," Harriet said 
angrily. "But you must admit that you were pretty wor 
ried yourself a few months ago, and that s what started 
me." She tried to make her voice softer and to speak more 
gently. "You know yourself, Joel, it s easier for a girl to 
get a job. She doesn t have to ask for such a high salary, 
or to keep up appearances. I thought that if you should lose 
yours, I might try to get some temporary one that could 
keep us going while you looked around. That way you 
could afford to try for something you wanted instead of 
taking just anything." 

"Very nice!" Joel said, still petulantly, and she grew 
angry with him again, her brief impulse to pacify him left 

"And I don t see why you should worry about that, any 
way!" she said, with heat again. "I m entitled to help too, 
aren t I? Or do you think woman s place is in the home?" 

"I don t care where you stay," Joel said. "But I don t 
like you implying that I m not capable of supporting you. 
You and Elaine and Pris and all the other damned respon 
sibilities that have been hanging around my neck." 

"Oh, I won t argue with you, if it s simply a question 


of your pride/ she said nastily. "I thought you had some 
valid objection." 

He was stopped by that, and opened his mouth and 
closed it again without saying anything. "Oh, hell," he 
finally said weakly, and she nodded and turned her head 
away again. 

There were tears standing in her eyes now. This was all 
her fault; Joel was feeling down in the dumps, but he hadn t 
looked for the argument, and he wasn t trying to keep it 
up. She could have laughed once at the things he was say 
ing. It was her fault, and it was her father s fault. Poor 
Dad, he wanted to help her, but he had made her doubt 
herself instead. Now she didn t know how she felt. Gray 
had implied that her affection for Joel was entirely physical, 
but he was wrong. Her father had implied that it was an 
escape from the life he had given her. He was wrong too. 
She didn t believe either of them, but it wouldn t trouble 
her so much if she didn t feel so annoyed with Joel now. 
Why couldn t he beat her or something? Why did he 
allow these troublesome thoughts to stay in her mind? 
Why did he let her nag and sting and say mean, sharp little 
things to him? 

The train stopped and started monotonously at the sta 
tions and people came in, shaking off their wet umbrellas. 
Nobody looked pleasant except the two young lovers and 
they were too ecstatic. They were even more annoying 
than the gloomy ones. She began watching impatiently 
for their street, but the train was against her, it made in 
numerable stops, it was like a personal injury the way it 
dawdled along. They passed iO3rd Street, finally, and she 
began to feel more comforted. Next came noth Street 
and it was time to start to arrange her bag and pull her 

240 January i^^o-March 

coat around her so that she could get up hastily. Joel never 
liked to stand up while the train was still going; he liked to 
make a last-minute dash after it had stopped and the doors 
were opened. She sat, poised for that moment, and felt 
him grab her arm and pull her up. He walked ahead and 
she followed him, feeling like a squaw, but when they got 
to the door he stood aside with a great deal of mock cere 
mony to let her pass through. 

The noth Street station was cold, great drafts of air 
coming in the upstairs door, and they climbed the steps 
slowly, Harriet forcing the pace down. She was surely 
going to have grippe, she thought, her bones hurt her so 
much. Joel reached down, standing one step ahead of her, 
and took her elbow again. He looked impatient, and she 
had another feeble spurt of irritation. Why couldn t he 
wait for her, her legs weren t as long as his? 

Outside, the wind had increased, and blew against them, 
throwing rain into their faces so that it no longer seemed 
cool or refreshing but was an enemy to batter against. Joel 
opened the umbrella, fighting with the wind to get it up 
over their heads, and they crossed the street holding it 
lowered in front of them as a shield against the wind, not 
caring whether or not they got wet. 

They passed a little tavern, lighted in the windows by 
its red neon beer sign. "Fd like a drink," Joel said. "Want 

She looked at him in despair. "Honestly, Joel, you know 
we can t afford it," she said to him. "Pris spent the whole 
month s liquor budget the other day." 

"This is different," Joel said. "Rules are all right and 
budgeting is all right, but I want a drink now." 

"You re drinking too much nowadays anyway," she said, 


and then could have cut her tongue off. Her hand went up 
towards her mouth, instinctively, as if she could push the 
words back. 

"What are you, anyway, Carrie Nation?" Joel said 
angrily. It was the first real sign of life in him. 

"No, I m sorry, I didn t mean that," she said. "But we 
really can t afford it now, Joel, and it isn t as if it were a 
party or something. Let s go home, please, I m tired." 

"Well, you would drag me all the way over to Brooklyn 
to go to that damned concert," Joel said. But he walked on 
with her, and she was grateful. The little prickling irritabil 
ity that had made her nag him earlier had gone completely, 
and there was no other impulse in its place. She felt dead 
and sodden, she only wanted to cover the streets quickly 
before they got to their home. She could see the big yel 
low globes of light out in front of it all the way down the 
block, and they were like a magnet to her. Her steps grew 
faster with them in sight. The old hall, with its red car 
pet and palm trees, was good to see and the elevator didn t 
seem too slow in spite of her impatience to be in the apart 
ment. Mr. McCready s pleasant old face made her like it. 

But when Joel took out his key and opened the door, she 
stepped back involuntarily, it was so dark and cold inside. 
She almost wished they had stopped for the drink. She 
could have had some hot coffee perhaps, and here it would 
mean boiling the water, and waiting for ages before it 
would be ready, and all the while her feet would be damp 
and cold, and her nose would be sore and she d want to 

She decided not to bother with it. Joel turned on the 
hall lights and she went off towards their bedroom with 
out speaking to him. She couldn t get her clothes off quickly 

242 January ly^o-March 

enough. The damp coat she threw carelessly over thei 
chair, and she kicked off her rubbers on the floor. Sh 
stripped with cold fingers, leaving her clothes where the- 
lay, and pulled down her bathrobe from the closet dooj 
Its flannel folds were warm and dry and she began to fee 
her first inkling of comfort again. A hot bath would b 
good, she decided, and she knelt on the floor to get he 
slippers out from under the bed. Joel had stayed behin< 
to hang his overcoat and umbrella up in the hall closet 
and he came in now as she stood up again. 

"I m going to take a bath," she said shortly, and he nod 
ded. She crossed the hall and closed the bathroom doo; 
behind her, shutting out the sight of Joel sitting dowi 
slowly to take off his shoes. 

Surprisingly, for that hour of night, the water was hot 
and steam came along with it, rising and filling the bath 
room until the whole air was damp and warm. Her heac 
felt clearer as she inhaled it, and she lay for a long tiiru 
in the hot water, drawing in the vapor, feeling the ach< 
leave her bones. As she felt better, she felt more cheerfu 
and she was sorry now that she had been so ugly witt 
Joel. She had seldom quarreled with a person. Her fathei 
didn t fight, and except for one or two arguments witf 
schoolmates, she had never lost her temper with anybody, 
As a little girl she would get mad at inanimate things some 
times, but she was afraid of people and she was still more 
afraid of them when they were angry. If she had evei 
spoken sharply to Joel before, he had frightened her with 
his quick, furious expression. But tonight he had been so 
limp that he had given her a feeling of power and she had 
gone ahead, saying things that shamed her now when she 
thought back on them. 



She got out of the tub and dried herself, thinking of how 
she would apologize to him, and when she drew the robe 
on again, her body felt strong and warm. 

She opened the door of their room tentatively. Joel was 
undressed, but he had not gone to bed yet. He was stand 
ing by the window, in his bathrobe and pajamas, looking 
out on the rain that made the streets and houses a shining 
black. "Joel," she said timidly. He turned immediately and 
came over to her. 

"I m sorry, baby," he said. "I didn t mean to fight with 

She went swiftly into his arms, losing all self-conscious 
ness. "Oh, darling," she said. "I m a louse, it was my fault." 

"No," he said. He leaned down and kissed her and she 
stretched her body against him. The contact excited her 
more than she had been excited by him for a long time. He 
kissed her again, and reached to turn the light out while 
she pulled down the covers of the bed, letting the extra 
cushions lie on the floor. They moved and thought to 
gether so perfectly that she could not remember taking 
off her robe or him taking off his, or their getting into bed 
together. Their love-making was the strangest they had 
ever had. It was almost hysterical, or rather a release from 
hysteria. They clung savagely to each other. She had no 
objectivity left, there were just herself and Joel together in 
a dark case of sheets and blankets. 

Afterwards, she lay warm and relaxed, with her head on 
his shoulder, and stared at the darkness. She had forgotten 
to turn out the light in the bathroom, she noticed half 
absently; its light, through the crack of the partly opened 
door, gave a little clarity to the room, and if she turned 
her head sideways again she could see Joel s thin, handsome 

244 January ly^o-March 1940. 

profile, and his eyes opened and staring upwards too. She 
moved closer to him and kissed him where his neck joined 
his shoulder. "What are you thinking about?" she whis 
pered, her lips muffled against him. 

"What?" he said aloud, his voice disturbing in the room, 
and then turned into a whisper. "Oh, nothing," he said, 
She lay quietly for a while soaking in her contentment, but 
slowly she began to frown and she looked at him again, 
There had been something withheld in his voice; he was 
thinking about something and he didn t want to tell her. 
"Joel," she said. "Something s bothering you. Wouldn t it 
help to tell me?" 

"I wanted to hide it for a few more days, but you might 
as well know, I guess," he said without preliminaries. His 
voice was very dry, as if there were no saliva in his mouth. 
He swallowed. "They fired me last Monday," he said. "I 
haven t got a job any more." 

For a moment she couldn t say anything; she lay in the 
darkness receiving the shock. "Oh, Joel," she said finally, 
making her voice tender and sympathetic, trying to sound 
as if it were only a personal injury to him, not something 
that would affect all of them. But her heart leaped with 
fear, and after the first panic subsided, tears came to her 
eyes, and she kept her face turned away from him so that 
he couldn t see her despair. 


April iQ4o-July 1940 


JLHE agency woman said to Harriet, "This is a 
job you might try. Mr. Mcllvaine is a difficult sort of per 
son. We never seem to be able to satisfy him. But he doesn t 
require short-hand, and he needs someone who can com 
pose letters, so you might do. Do you want to try it?" 

"Of course," Harriet said. She was wondering how 
Nancy Els started her agency. That was the sort of thing 
she should do, invent a unique service and open an office. 
Create your own work, really. There was something very 
charming about Nancy Els and her methods of business. 
After making the rounds of other agencies, Harriet was 
amazed at the leisurely, personal atmosphere here. Of 
course, this was special, it was an agency for odd talents: 
authors, radio commentators, importers, professors and 
people of that sort came here to hire secretaries. Education 
was important here, and the knowledge of foreign lan 
guages. Speed and technical ability were not quite as im 
portant as they were elsewhere. 

"What does Mr. Mcllvaine do?" she asked timidly. Some 
of the jobs required a girl who could travel, and she was 
not free for that. 

"He writes," Miss Els told her. "He s a sort of literary 
hack. Does all sorts of things. Writes for the movies, for 
the magazines, writes detective stories, special advertising 
copy, everything. He s an odd sort of duck, it s hard to get 
on with him. None of our girls have succeeded. But it s 
a very well-paid job. Thirty a week and only five days out 


248 April i$40-July 1940: 

of seven, and half the time you get the afternoon off. You 
have to copy his stuff and write his letters for him. He 
works like a dog himself, night and day, but of course the 
copying doesn t take nearly as long." 

"Doesn t he travel?" Harriet asked nervously. She was 
tempted at the thought of the job, it sounded like the sort 
of thing she would like and she was afraid there would 
be something about it that would make it impossible for 

"No, he hates it," Miss Els said, smiling. "He goes off 
for weekends sometimes, but never more than a day s dis 
tance from New York." 

"Good," Harriet said. "I ll go up right away. What s his 

"East Thirty-seventh Street," Miss Els said. "Wait a 
minute, I ll have to look up the number." She fingered 
through a little card file and found the slip with Mcllvaine s 
address which she handed to Harriet. "Take it with you 
as a reference," she said. "And you d better run along. He s 
in a terrible hurry." She smiled again. 

On the subway, Harriet held her purse tightly, trying 
to decide how she should behave with Mr. Mcllvaine. Miss 
Els had given her no idea of what his peculiarities were. 
She hoped he was not the sort who lost his temper easily, 
she felt she could cope with any other kind of person. She 
was embarrassed to find herself smiling into space as she 
set her face for the interview. A young man across the 
way from her was watching her too closely, as if he weren t 
sure whether or not she was smiling at him. She turned her 
head away from him and looked at the ads. But he had 
made her self-conscious and she didn t think about Mr. 


Mcllvaine again until she reached the Thirty-third Street 
subway station and had to get out. 

She walked along the broad sidewalks of Park Avenue, 
enjoying the sunshine. Her winter coat felt a little too 
warm for the day, but she liked that, it had been so long 
since she had felt too warm. Now she began thinking about 
her interview again and suddenly she lost her confidence. 
For some reason she had assumed that it would be a simple 
matter to get along with the man. But she remembered the 
other girls who had been unsatisfactory. Maybe Mr. Mc 
llvaine wants somebody more colorful or more intelligent 
than me, she thought. She tried to decide whether or not 
it would be worth while to assume a false personality, but 
she hadn t the courage for it even if she could convince 
herself that it would be wise. 

She turned down Thirty-seventh and walked almost the 
length of the sloping block until she found the address she 
wanted. It was an old brownstone house which had been 
converted into apartments, and Mr. Mcllvaine s doorbell 
had printed beside his card, in neat letters, "first floor." She 
hesitated a moment before she rang it and as her finger in 
its pigskin glove pressed the little button, she felt afraid. 
She had been trying for two weeks to find a job and she 
had spent days crowded with unsuccessful interviews. Joel, 
for all that they needed the money so badly, had seemed 
almost pleased that she had been unsuccessful. In a way 
she was touched by him. It was foolish and vain, but it was 
based on a real desire to protect her. Only she couldn t 
humor him. They were already living on the money that 
her father had left, and it couldn t last too long. Besides, 
she wanted to save it as her father had wanted her to, not 
as an escape fund, of course, but for some other emergency. 

250 April ip^o-July 1940: 

She thought wearily, the good weather cheered me up, 
but why should I think this was any different from the 
others? Of course, it was the first time she had gone out 
from Miss Els agency, but because Miss Els was pleasant 
didn t mean that Mr. Mcllvaine would be. In fact, just the 
opposite; this would be a difficult interview, it would be 
harder than the impersonal bureaus she had been to before, 
where they typed out her name and address on a slip and 
told her they would notify her if anything turned up. 

The front door clicked and she jumped nervously to 
catch and twist the door knob. Now she was in and she 
could have no more hesitations. She saw a door open down 
the hall, letting a streak of light out, and a face peer around 

"Who is it?" a man asked. 

"Mr. Mcllvaine?" she said. 

"Yes," he said. "What do you want?" 

"I m from Miss Els agency," she told him. "I under 
stand you wanted a secretary." 

"Oh, yes," Mr. Mcllvaine said, and opened the door a 
bit wider. "Come in, Miss" 

"Mrs. Randolf," she said. She followed him into the 
apartment, so nervous that she could hardly look around 
her. She concentrated instead on watching him. He was a 
little man, and neatly dressed, with a starched collar. He 
had gone bald, and combed some strands of hair over the 
spot on the top of his head. He wore pince-nez glasses, and 
they hung on a cord. He was exactly like the dean of her 
father s college; she almost smiled, the resemblance was so 

"Oh, yes," he said flutteringly. "Mrs. Randolf, of course. 
Come in, won t you, and have a seat." He waved his hand 


towards the room, although you could hardly call such 
a precise gesture a wave. 

"Thank you," she said. Her self-possession had come 
back to some extent; he looked so uncertain himself that 
she felt courageous in comparison. She saw that she would 
have to manage the interview, since after they sat down, 
he said nothing. "I understand you want somebody who 
can typewrite and answer your letters for you," she said. 
"I don t have any experience, but I used to take care of 
my father s correspondence, and I think I could do it for 

"Oh, yes," he said. He looked doubtful. "You re mar 
ried?" he asked. 

"Yes," she said uneasily. Perhaps that would be against 
her. But he merely nodded. "It s not a difficult job, Mrs. 
Randolf," he said. "Although I seem to have difficulty in 
finding a suitable person for it. I am, perhaps, a little fastidi 
ous. I insist on perfect neatness, and a great many of the 
girls that Miss Els has sent me have been very untidy. But 
the main thing, of course, is personality. That s so impor 
tant, don t you think?" 

"Yes, of course," she said, still nervously. She could do 
nothing about her personality, if he didn t like it. She 
looked around the room a bit now, as she was talking. It 
was very sparse, and extremely clean. There were the two 
baronial oak chairs in which they sat with a long oak table 
between them. And on the other side of the room there was 
a big desk with an office swivel chair in front of it. The 
desk was the sort with a typewriter built into it which can 
be pulled up for use. Beside it, like a small child, was an 
unpainted wooden table with another typewriter on it, 
and there was a green metal file case beside that. Both table 

252 April i<)4.o-]uly 1940: 

and desk had goose-necked daylight lamps on them. There 
was no rug on the dustless floor and no pictures on the 
walls. The only ornament in the room was the rows of 
books along one wall, covering it completely. Their colors 
added an unintentional brightness to it. 

Mr. Mcllvaine evidently noticed that she was looking 
around her. "As you see," he told her, "this is my work 
shop, and I don t believe in clutter. The last girl I had here 
insisted on bringing in bunches of flowers. I hate flowers, 
they only fall and litter the room. She couldn t seem to un 
derstand it, although I told her very precisely not to bother 
with them. I hope you won t try to soften up the place, 
Mrs. Randolf." 

"Not at all," she said, feeling a little treacherous to her 
predecessor who had probably not had the warning she 
had. "Since this is your workroom, I think it should be 
kept as one. Everything in its place and nothing to distract 

"Of course!" he said delightedly. "That s it exactly, Mrs. 
Randolf. I m pleased that you can understand me. I ll show 
you around a bit, shall I?" 

She smiled at him and stood up, arranging her purse and 
gloves neatly on the table. "These are my letter files," he 
said. "I have a great many dealings with agents and pub 
lishers which have to be kept for income-tax purposes. 
Here is today s mail on the desk." He pointed to a pile of 
letters on the larger desk. There were about twelve of 
them, she thought, and wondered if this was an average 

"Now, which desk do you prefer?" he asked her. "I 
want you to be perfectly comfortable." 

Noticing that he was shorter than she, Harriet looked 


back at the two desks and saw that the chair beside the big 
one was higher than the one beside the table. "The table 
will suit me very well," she said. "Those two drawers will 
be good enough for stationery, I should think, and I like a 
low desk. It s easier to typewrite if you don t have to raise 
your arms too much." 

"Really," he said. She saw that he was pleased. "Well, 
now, I had never thought of that. Most of the girls who 
have worked here have felt that the desk would be prefer 
able because it had more drawer space. But I will confess 
to you, Mrs. Randolf, I really like it myself, and I hated 
to give it up each time." 

She was amused, although she tried not to show it. Evi 
dently most of his troubles came because he was too timid 
to express his wants. Probably Miss Els had not analyzed the 
difficulty and had sent him a rather aggressive type of per 

"Now, your dudes will be simple, after you have grown 
used to them," he explained to her. "For the first few days 
I ll .give you advice about the letters, until you feel you re 
capable of handling them yourself. I shall also want you to 
pay my bills for me, you know; you re to make out the 
checks and address the envelopes and so forth, and I ll 
simply sign them along with the letters when you have 
finished for the day. Then, of course, there are my manu 
scripts to be copied. I like three copies, and I must insist 
on the carbons being neat. It does seem to me that that 
shouldn t be too difficult." 

"It doesn t sound difficult at all," she agreed. 

"I m away a good part of the day," he told her. "After 
we get you broken in, so to speak." He grinned at her 
nervously. "So that you will have to answer my telephone 

254 April 

and take messages for me. Miss Els has probably explained 
to you that I work for a great many people and a lot of 
my time is taken up in seeing them, and talking over out 
lines and ideas with them. I do the actual work at night. I 
prefer it then, since it is quieter. So you see, we shan t in 
terfere with each other a great deal." 

"No," she smiled. 

"I should prefer that you do not go out to lunch," he 
said. "I am so often apt to be away myself. It s incredible 
to me how much business is done at lunchtime. Personally, 
I feel that it interferes with the digestion, but then we can t 
choose our times, can we?" 

"No," she said. She began to like him. He was fussy and 
a little ridiculous, but there was a gentleness about him that 
was very winning, and he was not dull. 

"I have an excellent little kitchen here, which I shall 
show you," he told her. "And possibly you could have your 
lunch here. I have a maid who comes in at about twelve 
who will take care of you. She s a fine cook, I believe, and 
if you will tell her what you want, she will get it for you. 
Naturally, since I am asking you to stay in, I will provide 
the lunch. Is that satisfactory?" 

"Oh, perfectly," Harriet said. She was pleased at the idea. 
It would have been nice to get outdoors and stretch her legs 
a bit in the middle of the day, but she would save a good 
deal of money by having her lunch supplied to her, and 
that was worth it. y 

"Well, now," he rubbed his hands together drily, "I be 
lieve that s everything. Will you hang up your hat and coat 
in the closet there, aad we can start to work." 

"You want me then?" Harriet asked. 

"Oh, yes," he told her. "I have great confidence in Miss 


Els, although she hasn t been satisfactory lately. We shan t 
bother with references or anything of that sort." 

"Thank you," Harriet said. She picked up her purse and 
gloves and took them with the coat and hat to the closet. It 
was bare, like everything else in the house, an overcoat and 
a raincoat hung in it, and there were two hats neatly set 
down on the shelf. She rather wished she had a mirror, but 
fortunately her hair was straight, and she could smooth it 
with her hands, hoping that it would be all right. 

"Now," Mr. Mcllvaine said when she had finished. 
"Shall we begin?" He looked impatient, and she hurried to 
her chair and sat down in it. She watched him while he slit 
open his letters with a paper knife, and unfolded them, 
smoothing out their creases and putting them carefully be 
side him. When he had opened all of them he began to read 
them, passing them over to her as he finished each one. 

"There are so many routine requests, you see," he told 
her. "This institution, for instance, wishes to put Conestoga 
Wagon into Braille. I simply refer them to my publisher, 
partly because it saves trouble and partly because that is a 
book which I wrote in collaboration with another man, and 
I do not have the exclusive rights to it." 

"Yes, I see," Harriet said. "Incidentally, is there some list 
of your works and their publishers? I should be familiar 
with them, I think." 

"Yes," he said. "Now you see here, this letter is from a 
high-school girl who wants just such a thing. I have the lists 
mimeographed, it saves time. They re in this drawer here. 
You might take one home with you and study it, Mrs. Ran- 
dolf. It will be useful, I believe." 

"Thank you," she said. 

"Now here," he said, "is a letter from my agent. It is in 

256 April i$4o-July 1940: 

regard to an outline for a series of articles which he has sub 
mitted to Cosmopolitan for me. Naturally, you will not be 
able to answer this sort of letter, but in the future I shall 
pencil a brief summary of what I want to say on the top of 
it, and you can compose something suitable for me to sign." 

"Oh, yes," she said, picking up the letter and examin 
ing it. 

He smiled shyly. "I should tell you," he explained, "that 
I dislike writing letters intensely. Perhaps it is too much like 
my regular work." 

"Of course," she said. "It would be terribly annoying, I 
should think." 

"And tiring," he said, nodding. "Yes, I decided long ago 
that since I have to employ a secretary anyway, there was 
no reason why she shouldn t take that burden off my shoul 
ders." He went on looking through his pile of letters. "Of 
course," he said, showing her a handwritten one, "this is 
from my aunt in New Hampshire, and I must answer this 
by hand. But there are not many of this sort, Mrs. Ran- 

She thought he was a little pathetic, although he evi 
dently did not think so himself. He seemed pleased that he 
had so few personal letters. He went on through the pile, 
indicating the routine ones, making little comments on 
them, sometimes amusing, sometimes pettish, and Harriet 
nodded patiently, trying to store all of these things in her 
head so that he would not have to go over them too often. 
Tomorow I ll suggest that I do them by myself, she 
thought, and he can check on me. 

He showed her the stationery and gave her the manu 
script of a short story to type. He composed on a type- 


writer evidently, and then wrote in corrections in a neat 
little handwriting. It would be easy stuff to copy. 

"I think that will be all for today," he told her. "We 
don t want to overwhelm you, do we? " 

She smiled at him. "Please don t worry about that, Mr. 
Mcllvaine," she told him. "This doesn t look difficult at all." 

"Fine!" he said heartily. "Well, then, I m afraid I must 
leave you for the time being. I have a luncheon engage 
ment. The maid, as I said, will take care of you. She should 
be in almost immediately. Her name, by the way, is Cora. 
You ll take care of any telephone calls, won t you?" 

She nodded. 

"Good," he said. He had gone to the coat closet and 
was taking out his overcoat. She noticed, with amusement, 
that although the sun came in the window, he carried a 
rolled-up umbrella. "I shall be back around three," he told 
her. "I think this will be satisfactory, Mrs. Randolf. I sin 
cerely hope so." 

"Thank you," she said, smiling. She got up to see him 
to the door. "I hope so too." 

Left alone, she got up and looked through the rest of the 
apartment. Beside the room where she worked, there was a 
bedroom, furnished with a cot, a bureau and a leather arm 
chair; a kitchen with the most handsome of modern equip 
ment, lined with gleaming tiles, a curious note in the rest 
of the apartment, and a bathroom, equally well equipped. 
The effect of bareness was mostly created by the lack of 
curtains, she decided. Catch dust, probably, she thought, 
smiling to herself. She ran her finger over the edge of the 
big desk. It was spotless. This was very pleasant, she de 
cided, and she picked up the stack of letters and arranged 
them beside her typewriter. Now, stationery and carbon 

258 April 1940- July 1940: 

paper were in the right hand drawer, and manuscript paper 
in the left, she discovered. She sat down and began to work. 

She had typed the third letter when she heard a key in 
the lock and the maid came in. She was a tall, thin colored 
woman, very neatly dressed. She loked as bare and austere 
as the apartment, but she had a nice smile. 

"You the new secretary?" she asked. 

"Yes," Harriet said. "My name is Mrs. Randolf . Mr. Mc- 
Ilvaine told me about you. You re Cora, aren t you?" 

"That s right," the maid said. She took off her hat and 
coat and hung them in the closet. "He s very fussy, I can t 
leave them lying around," she explained over her shoulder 
to Harriet. She began unrolling the parcel she carried and 
brought out a starched white apron and a white scarf. She 
tied the scarf over her head like a bandanna, and put on the 
apron over her silk print dress. "I ve got to clean in here 
first," she said. "I hope I don t bother you." 

"No, of course not," Harriet said. "Go ahead." She be 
gan to work again, listening to Cora sweeping behind her, 
and hearing her rub the dust cloth over the furniture. When 
she finished the preliminary cleaning, she got out a bucket 
of soap suds and scrubbed the paint around the doors and 
windows. "Windows get washed on Thursdays," she told 
Harriet. "Bring a sweater then. It gets chilly in here." 

Harriet smiled at her. "Thanks, I will," she said. 

She got back into her work again and became enough 
absorbed in it so that she didn t hear Cora finish and go into 
the kitchen. The first sign of it was when Cora put her head 
around the door. "You ready to stop for lunch now?" she 
asked Harriet. "I got it all ready. We had some food in the 
house I thought I d use, but tomorrow you tell me what 
you want and I ll get it." 


"Oh, thanks," Harriet said. "Yes, I m ready whenever 
you are." 

Cora brought in the food on a wooden tray and set it 
down on the oak table. "Come over here and stretch your 
legs a bit," she said. She had fixed a small lunch, but it was 
delicious, and Harriet found she was hungry. While she ate, 
Cora worked on, cleaning the bedroom now. Harriet could 
hear the thump of her mop. She came out when Harriet had 

"You all through?" she asked. Harriet nodded and Cora 
picked up the tray. She stood, balancing it on her hip, 
strong and tall. "Think you going to like this job?" she 

"I think so," Harriet said. "Mr. Mcllvaine seems like a 
nice person. I hope I suit him." 

"Maybe you will," Cora said, looking her over. "Them 
other girls, they scared him to death, but you don t look so 
rambunctious. And they didn t like him either, that was the 
trouble, they thought he was crazy." 

"Well, he is a little eccentric," Harriet said. "But I 
thought he was pleasant. Don t you?" 

"Oh, me! " Cora said. "He s my favorite man. Maybe he s 
fussy, sure, but I don t mind. I wouldn t work for anybody 

"That sounds swell," Harriet said, grinning at her. She 
liked Cora, there was something vigorous and clean about 
her. She was kindly too, in spite of looking so harsh. She 
made Harriet feel very young. 

"Yep," Cora said. She started taking the tray out to the 
kitchen, talking as she went. "He sure is good. Don t you 
worry, if he likes you, you re going to like him." 

"Good," Harriet said. She started to light a cigarette and 

260 April i<)4o-]uly 2940: 

then noticed that there were no ashtrays around and de 
cided against it. She could do without during her working 
hours, she thought. Lots of people had to. She walked back 
to the desk again, impatient to finish her work before Mr. 
Mcllvaine came back. As she was rolling a new sheet of 
paper into the typewriter, the telephone rang and for a mo 
ment she made no move to answer it. Then she remembered 
and walked over to the little stand where it was kept to 
pick it up. There was a neat white pad beside it, she no 
ticed, and a pencil for messages. Cora put her head out of 
the kitchen and watched her as she said "Hello," 

Somebody asked to speak to Mr. Mcllvaine. "He s not 
here at the moment," she told them. "But can I take a 

"Who is this?" the voice asked her. 

Harriet hesitated for a moment, and then looking across 
at Cora, smiled. "This is Mr. Mcllvaine s secretary," she 


The May sunshine came in through the window which 
Harriet didn t dare open. However, the high ceiling of the 
room kept it cool, and she had rolled up the sleeves of her 
silk blouse. Even Mr. Mcllvaine had left his umbrella be 
hind today. She felt, seeing the yellow warmth through the 
glass, that she could smell spring, something sweet and 
clean. It was entirely imaginary in this dustless, scentless 
room, but she guessed that Cora felt it too. She was sing 
ing in the kitchen, one of her gayer spirituals. There were 
high "hallelujahs" at the end of each chorus which she 
shouted triumphantly. Harriet smiled to hear her. 

She stacked the finished letters for Mr. Mcllvaine s signa 
ture on his desk, and laid the three paper-clipped copies of 


his new article beside them. She could have sent the orig 
inal and first carbon of these off, and filed the other, but she 
knew that he liked to finger them, reveling in their neat 
ness, enjoying phrases of his own creation which caught 
his eyes as he looked over them. Sometimes he read bits 
aloud to her, forgetting that having just copied them she 
was already familiar with them. 

Lately she had begun offering criticisms and he had been 
pleased with them. He had given her several articles and 
stories to revise and had told her she had a real ability for 
that sort of thing. She liked to hear that. For so many years 
she had thought of herself as simply a person who was 
mildly competent in several fields, but not more than that 
in any one particular field. Now she had a special talent or 
bent on which to concentrate. 

The telephone rang and she went to pick it up. It was 
Coles Hanson, Mr. Mcllvaine s agent. 

"Is this Mrs. Randolf?" he asked her. 

"Yes, Mr. Hanson," she said. "I m sorry, but Mr. Mcll- 
vaine isn t in right now." 

"That s all right," Hanson told her. "It s you I m call 

"Me? " Harriet said in surprise. 

"Yes," Hanson said. "I wanted to congratulate you on 
the swell job of revision you did to Mac s pearl article. 
Really, an awfully good job a creative job. Ever think of 

"No," Harriet laughed. "I know which side my bread s 
buttered on." 

He laughed with her. "Seriously though," he said, 
"you re good at that sort of thing. I have an assistant who s 
hovering on the brink of matrimony. If she takes the leap 

2 62 April i$40-]uly 1940: 

would you consider coming to work for me? I have Mac s 
permission to ask you." 

"I d love to," Harriet said enthusiastically. 
"Swell!" he told her. "Just keep it in mind now. And if 
you re interested in making a career for yourself, it s a job 
with a future to it. Are you interested?" 

Harriet said, "Yes," although there were reservations in 
her mind. Joel might want her to stop working if he got 
himself a job. Just the same, it didn t hurt to think about it. 
And she rather liked the idea. 

"Good," Hanson told her. "Don t forget." 
She hung up smilingly. 

Her work for the day was done and she began putting 

on her hat and jacket absent-mindedly, standing before the 

little closet mirror she had persuaded Mr. Mcllvaine to buy. 

"I m off, Cora," she called out to the kitchen, and Cora 

came out smiling. 

"I m off, too, in a few minutes," she said. "Ummmmhum, 
it s so pretty outdoors I can hardly wait to go." 

"Don t blame you," Harriet said, smiling. "Good-bye. 
See you tomorrow." 

She closed the door carefully behind her and went out 
on to the brownstone stoop. There was a shining green 
roadster parked in front of the house, glorious with chro 
mium finish and white-walled tires. The radio in it was go 
ing loudly; as Harriet walked by it she could hear the news 
announcer s frantic voice. "Liege has been taken," she 
heard, and then the list of other names, places in Holland 
and Belgium which she barely knew, suddenly taken out 
of their picturesque, geography-book charm into a world 
where invasion swept terror, scattering the lace caps and " 
the wooden shoes, bombing the great cathedrals, letting 


loose the dykes, killing, burning, terrorizing. The sunshine 
and the sweet air seemed ironic. She paused to hear the 
rest of it. Each day there was some tenuous hope to fasten 
on to. 

Somebody called her and she looked back to see Pris put 
ting her head out of the car door. "Harriet," she said again, 
and Harriet turned back to her. 

"Hello," she said. "Where d you get the car?" 

"It s Kenneth s," Pris said. She opened the door near the 
sidewalk and motioned Harriet in. "Come on," she said. "I 
came to get you." 

Harriet got in beside her and closed the door. Pris had 
turned the radio down and now she reached out and clicked 
it off. "I didn t dare come in for you," she said. "I was 
afraid Mr. Mac was there. So I waited." 

"I hope not long," Harriet said. The little shelf behind 
her was crowded with long cardboard boxes, and one of 
them slid forward against her neck as Pris put the car into 
gear and turned it out into the street. "What are all these? " 
Harriet asked. 

"My trousseau," Pris said carelessly, keeping her eyes 
ahead of her on the street. Her gloved hands slid expertly 
on the wheel as she turned the corner onto Park Avenue. 

Harriet leaned back a moment speechlessly. "Your trous 
seau?" she repeated. She felt, stupidly, that something was 
happening she ought to grasp, but which was not clear 
to her. 

"Yes," Pris said. There was a little smile in the corner 
of her mouth. "Present from the groom." 

"You mean Kenneth?" Harriet asked. "You and Kenneth 
are going to be married?" 

Pris nodded. "Aren t you pleased?" she asked. 

264 April i$40-]uly 1940: 

Harriet thought, pleased! She tried to say something 
pleasant, but in her mind was Pris s hard, stubborn little 
face as she came out of Kenneth s bedroom that night, 
wrapping her bathrobe around herself as if she were hold 
ing in a precious thing. At any rate, Harriet thought, the 
method worked. "I am, if that s what you want," she said 
finally, unable to be completely cordial. Afterwards she 
was sorry. What was the point in trying to make Pris un 
happy if she had already made up her mind. 

"I worked hard enough for it," Pris said defiantly. She 
braked the car for a red light, and after it had stopped, 
turned to look at Harriet. "I wanted to tell you myself," 
she said, "because the rest of the family don t know what 
happened. I thought you ought to know. I m going to have 
a baby." 

"Oh," Harriet said, nodding. That was what had forced 
Kenneth into this. "Why are you telling me about it?" she 
asked. Her voice was not cold, but detached. Even to her 
self it sounded disembodied, like a victrola record. 

"Because you saw me that night," Pris said. "Partly, at 
any rate. And partly because oh, I don t know, you ll dis 
approve more than any of the rest of them, but you ll un 
derstand why, too." 

This is a dubious compliment, Harriet thought, but I sup 
pose it s true. "You wanted money so desperately?" she 
asked, dropping her pretense of approval. 

"Of course," Pris said. The light changed and she started 
up again. Harriet thought she was probably glad to have an 
excuse to look away, to keep her eyes ahead of her. "We 
couldn t have gone on like this on thirty dollars a week, 
could we? I had to do something. I m the little heroine at 
home now." 


"It wouldn t be thirty a week forever," Harriet said. "As 
soon as Joel gets a job it would have been more. And you 
could have tried to work yourself." 

"The only asset I have is my looks," Pris said, turning 
the wheel. "So I went out and sold them. It s simple enough, 
isn t it?" 

She sounded so adult; Harriet was more horrified at that, 
curiously, than at her hardness. It seemed worse to have 
Pris grow up so quickly than it did to have her cheat. 

"When are you getting married?" she asked her. 

"Tonight," Pris said. "That s why I came for you. The 
ceremony," her mouth twisted scornfully, "is to take place 
at Ken s hotel. Joel and Elaine and Kit and Gray have gone 
on ahead. I hope they re consoling the groom." 

"I suppose he didn t want to get married," Harriet said 

"No, he didn t," Pris said. She put out her hand for a left 
turn. "He s chronically opposed to marriage, anyway, and 
just now he s all excited about the war. He wanted to go 
over to England and join the army there. But nature put a 
stop to all that." She smiled to herself. 

"You are really pregnant, aren t you?" Harriet asked. 

"Oh, yes," Pris said. "Don t worry, Kenneth went along 
to the doctor s with me. He wasn t going to have anything 
put over on him." She stopped for another traffic light and 
turned to look at Harriet again. "Listen," she said. "It s not 
quite as bad as you think. He doesn t dislike me, although 
he s pretty sore at the moment. He s as fond of me as he d 
be of any girl. But he would never have married unless he 
had been forced into it like this. Perhaps he ll be glad, after 
wards. I m going to be as good to him as I can. I m not a 
complete crook, you know." 

2 66 April i $40- July 2940: 

"No," Harriet said. "I didn t think that. As a matter of 
fact what worries me so much is that being hard-up made 
you so desperate. It s a sort of weakness." 

Pris was astonishingly meek. "I know it is," she said. "I 
don t have any guts, I guess. I thought I did. I never was 
afraid of snakes, or the dark, gr all the things that frighten a 
lot of girls. But I m afraid of being poor, of not knowing 
what s going to happen to me." 

Harriet went on mercilessly. "You weren t afraid of the 
other things because you don t have much imagination," she 
said. "But this was forced on you, it was something real, not 
in the mind." 

"Yes," Pris said. "Do you dislike me for it? " 

"No," Harriet said. "I don t, or I wouldn t be talking to 
you this way. I m sorry for you and worried about you. 
I m not at all sure that you ll be any happier this way." 

"Maybe not," Pris said. She had to start up the car again, 
but Harriet saw that she was crying, and once she took her 
hand off the wheel to wipe away the tears. She sniffed, and 
Harriet opened her purse and got out her handkerchief. 
"Here," she said. 

"Thanks," Pris said. "I knew you d bawl me out, but I 
guess I kind of wanted it. I couldn t go on keeping this to 
myself. I d rather have you bawl me out than anybody else. 
It s like I said, you don t just blow up, like Elaine would, 
you see my side of it. Maybe you don t approve of it, but 
you understand it." 

"You haven t told Elaine, then," Harriet said. 

"No," Pris told her. "And I m not going to. Or Joel, or 
anybody. I just told them we were going to get married a 
few minutes ago. I don t particularly care about secrecy, 
but I couldn t bear to have Elaine fluttering around and be- 


ing happy for me for five whole days while we got the 
license. Kenneth felt the same way. This isn t the usual joy 
ous occasion, you know." 

"No, I know," Harriet said. 

Pris steered the car to the side entrance of Kenneth s 
hotel, and they got out of it, confronted by the walls of the 
building, so steep that they could not see the top without 
stretching their heads back. The doorman took the key 
from Pris. "Mr. Tryson s car," Pris told him. "Will you 
park it for him?" He nodded and she opened her bag for a 
tip. It s true, Harriet thought, they know how to treat 
money. This is the life that is natural to them, they know 
how to make liberal gestures, they are not abashed by door 
men in uniforms, or headwaiters, or expensive hotels. 

They went into the handsome dim lobby and took the 
elevator. The boy seemed to know Pris, and Harriet sus 
pected that she had been here often with Kenneth. She had 
a key to the room, Harriet noticed, and she opened the 
door easily, as if she was used to it. 

Kenneth had a suite, a living room and a bedroom off of 
it. The living room was more handsomely furnished than 
the hotel rooms Harriet had known. There was some per 
sonality to it, and the colors were good, not the standard 
cream and chintz. There were long green-and-white-striped 
curtains at the windows, and the couch was upholstered in 
a brick-colored brocade. Elaine was sitting on it, wearing 
her best hat and looking pleased. Joel and Gray sat on the 
window seat which covered the radiator. The spring sun 
shine colored Joel s hair so that it was a bright gold. Kit 
was sitting in an armchair, with her long, expensively clad 
legs crossed and a cigarette in her hand. She smiled when 
they came in. "Well," she said. "Here s the bride at last." 

z68 April i$4o-]uly 194.0: 

Harriet could see that she was delighted, all of them were 
delighted with the wedding. Of course, they didn t know 
what had actually happened, but there was something so 
eager about all of them that she was afraid they would ap 
prove even if they did know. 

"Where s the groom?" Pris asked. She had grown impor 
tant to all of them and she knew it. The meekness she had 
had with Harriet disappeared, now she was with people 
who were proud of her, and whom she could help. From 
being the youngest member of the family, she had suddenly 
become the most important. Perhaps she had suffered from 
that too, Harriet thought. Perhaps she had resented Kit s 
business success and her own efforts to help. It was bitter to 
watch her, seeing her become poised and smiling, filled with 
the knowledge of her own superiority. 

"He went down to buy a bottle of champagne or so," 
Joel told her. "We persuaded him to. Thought it was the 
proper gesture." 

"I bet you did," Pris said. "He wouldn t have done it 

She went over and sat down on the edge of the little cof 
fee table by the couch. The uncomfortable position made 
her look as if she was crouching, ready to jump up. 

Kit leaned forward to her, smiling and eager. She had 
lost the attitude of the elder sister as quickly as Pris had 
lost her youthfulness. She was almost humble. "I didn t get 
a chance to congratulate you, darling," she said. "We re all 
so happy for you." 

Gray stirred in the window seat, and looking across at 
him, Harriet thought that he wanted to protest. He saw her 
watching him, and she turned away quickly. She wasn t 
anxious to meet Gray s eye these days. 


"Thanks," Pris said. Her voice was haughty, dismissing 
any need of Kit s good wishes. It was painful to see the 
eagerness die out of Kit s face, leaving only the humility. 
She leaned back in her chair as if she had suddenly realized 
that her posture was over-anxious. 

The door clicked and they all turned as Kenneth came 
in. Harriet looked at him curiously, wondering if he had 
changed as Pris had changed. But he seemed very much the 
same. He was always sulky. The only difference was that 
there was a jerkiness to his movements that showed nerv 
ousness, and his eyes went quickly from one object to an 
other, as if he were a small animal caught in the palm of 
somebody s hand. He was carrying a paper bag, which he 
set down on the coffee table. Kit got up and opened it, 
bringing out the bottles of champagne with their gold tin 
foil wrappings. "Hooray! And already iced too," she said. 

There was a little jerk of gaiety to the party; they smiled 
as they looked at the tall bottles and they began talking 
more freely. 

"I love champagne," Elaine said happily. "It s the only 
thing to have at weddings, I really think. Did you have 
champagne when you were married, Harriet?" 

Harriet started to answer but there was a knock on the 
door that interrupted her and Kenneth jumped and went to 
open it. A bellboy stood there with a long white cardboard 
box. "For Mrs. Kenneth Tryson," he said, looking down at 
the label. 

"Who?" Kenneth said, "Oh, yes." He took the box and 
felt in his pockets for a tip. Pris got up eagerly and came 
over to it, taking it from his arms before he closed the door. 
"I wonder who these are from?" she said. "Did you send 
them, Kenneth?" She had been untying the string and she 

270 April i<)40-July 1940: 

opened the box now without waiting for his answer. Har 
riet saw him shake his head, but Pris didn t. She took out 
the little card and read it to herself. "Oh," she said. Harriet 
thought there was a little disapointment in her voice. "It s 
from Joel. That s sweet of you, Joel," she said, looking up 
at her brother. 

"It s the best I could do," Joel said somberly. 

"Get the boy back to put these in water, Ken," Pris said. 
She pulled the mass of peach blossoms out of the box, hold 
ing them across her arms. "They re lovely," she said, bend 
ing to smell them. Elaine got up and with Kit came over to 
admire them. They formed a little group around Pris, inti 
mate and feminine, and Harriet hung back uncomfortably, 
feeling alien. Everything was so traditional suddenly; they 
were trying to invest a hurried, graceless ceremony with 
sentiment and beauty. She saw Joel looking at her and smil 
ing. Even Joel, who had been miserable for so long now, 
felt that this was a happy occasion. 

Kenneth was standing by the door waiting for somebody 
to answer his ring. She saw him open it and heard him say 
to the boy outside, "A vase to put these flowers in, and 
some champagne glasses. Seven." He was like somebody 
under an anaesthetic. His face didn t change for anything, 
even when Pris came and put her arm under his to make 
him admire the flowers. "Yes," he told her. "They re 
lovely." He seemed almost stupid. This is like watching tor 
ture, Harriet thought. The elegant room filled with her 
smiling relatives suddenly gave her a kind of claustrophobia. 
She felt that she must breathe somewhere, she wanted to 
get to the window and throw it up, but even that wasn t 
enough. I can t stay here too long, she thought, and smile 
as if everything were lovely and watch them all pretend to 


the minister. She remembered her own marriage down in 
City Hall, where even with grim surroundings and the 
wholesale feeling it gave them to be shunted along with the 
other couples, they were happy. 

"Did you get hold of the judge, Ken?" Pris asked. Her 
voice was sharp now; she had seen that Kenneth wasn t go 
ing through the pretense of blissfulness, and she had 
dropped her own. 

"He s supposed to be here at four-thirty," Kenneth told 
her. He took out his watch and looked at it, and then 
looked at it again as if he hadn t seen it the first time. "It s 
that now," he said. "He should be here soon." 

"Whom are you getting, Kenneth?" Elaine asked him. 
"Somebody you know?" 

"Yes," Kenneth said. "Judge O Grady, a friend of my 
father s." Even to Elaine he made no pretense of good 
nature. Why should he, Harriet thought? Pris is the only 
one who s obligated to go through this with good grace. 

"That s nice," Elaine said, nodding contentedly. She must 
be very obtuse, Harriet thought. Or else she s doing a good 
job of acting. If she weeps, I ll die. "It makes it so much 
more friendly," she said, "if you can get someone you 

"Yes, doesn t it," Kenneth said. He brought a package of 
cigarettes out and put one in his mouth. 

"Me too, darling," Pris said, reaching out her hand. He 
looked at her as if he wondered who she was for a moment, 
and then brought the package out again to give her one. 
She had to nudge him when he lit his own before he re 
membered to light hers. 

Harriet thought grimly, well, it won t be long before she 
whips him into shape. 

272 April 2^40-July 1940: 

Kit came over and put her arm around Pris s neck, smil 
ing up at Kenneth. "You re a lucky man, Ken," she said. 
The gesture turned Pris s face soft, as she looked up to Ken 
neth and almost involuntarily he smiled for a moment. Har 
riet felt some relief. There s something between them, at 
any rate, she thought. But he didn t answer Kit, probably 
because there was nothing he could honestly say, and Kit 
had to laugh again and pass over it so that it wouldn t be 
too noticeable. 

"Let me look at you," she said to Pris. She turned her 
around so that they were facing each other. "You got that 
at Considine s, didn t you? It s very pretty." 

They both of them looked down at the neatly tailored 
little black suit Pris was wearing. "I haven t had a nice suit 
for so long," Pris said. "I kind of feel afraid to sit down 
in this." 

"Well, you look darned good in it," Kit said. She shook 
her head sadly. "If you could see some of my customers in 
that job! It s a pleasure to see it on somebody who can 
really wear clothes." 

"I bought a whole trousseau," Pris told her. "That s what 
I ve been doing all morning. Ken gave it to me for a wed 
ding present." 

Elaine stirred on the couch. "I hated to have you do that, 
Ken," she said. "I wanted to outfit Pris myself. It doesn t 
seem right somehow." 

She clings to the old customs so, Harriet thought. It was 
such a foolish, unnecessary little protest. 

Through the opened windows they suddenly heard 
newsboys shouting an extra, their rough voices coming up 
through the golden air. Gray looked out and down. "I won 
der what s happened," he said. He was obviously anxious to 


go down and buy the paper, but Kit said to him sharply, 
"For God s sake, Gray, leave Europe alone for a minute. 
This is Pris s wedding day, or don t you remember?" 

"Sorry," Gray said. He looked across at Pris with some 
thing strange in his face, and she lost her haughtiness for 
a moment and went up to him and put her arm through 
his. "J ust for a while, Gray," she said pleadingly. "Let s 
forget about the disagreeable things. Please." She was beg 
ging all of them, Harriet thought, she was looking at her 
too, and at Kenneth, trying to force them into her pre 
tense, and perhaps she was right. Harriet took a cigarette 
out of her purse and lit it to make herself relax. She saw 
Joel feeling in his pockets for a match while she was doing 
it and realized that she had become almost too independent 
about such things lately. Joel usually carried the cigarettes 
for both of them, and gave her one when she wanted it. 
But since she was away from him during the day, she had 
taken to providing for herself. I must be more careful, she 
thought, Joel is in a tough spot nowadays and a small thing 
like that might be important to him. She smiled at him, and 
surreptitiously patted the couch beside her, begging him to 
come over and sit there. He got up, pathetically grateful, 
and came across to her. "That judge is pretty late," he said, 
sitting down. He had lost so much of his lightness. His 
heavy remarks were hard to answer; they sank like little 
lumps into a conversation. 

"Yes, he is," Harriet said, looking up at Kenneth, who 
brought out his watch again and looked at it. "I wish he d 
hurry," he said impatiently. 

"Well, we might as weU open the champagne, don t you 
think?" Pris said, trying to smooth over Kenneth s sourness 

274 April 1 940- July 1940: 

with her own smile to all of them. "What are we wait 
ing for?" 

"The boy hasn t brought the glasses yet," Kenneth said. 
"What the devil s keeping him, I wonder." 

Somebody knocked on the door at that moment. "Oh," 
Kenneth said, going to open it. "Here he is. About time." 

There were two people outside, however. The bellboy 
with a tray of glasses and a large vase, and a small, white- 
haired man in a loosely fitting blue-serge suit. 

"Judge O Grady!" Kenneth said. For the first time he 
smiled, and his face looked pleasant. "Well, we d almost 
given you up." 

"I m sorry, Ken," the judge said, coming in. The bell 
boy waited hesitantly behind him. "And at your wedding, 
too; it s a shame, I know how impatient you must be. But 
I got into a traffic jam. I should have taken the subway." 

"You re here now, anyway," Kenneth said, putting a 
hand on his arm and drawing him into the room a little fur 
ther. The bellboy made a small sound like a cough and 
Kenneth looked around at him. "Excuse me a second," he 
said to the judge and went back to take the glasses and 
give the boy a tip. The rest of them stood looking uncom 
fortably at the judge without an introduction. Only Pris 
kept her poise. She moved forward to take his hand. "How 
do you do, Judge O Grady," she said. "I m Priscilla Ran- 

"Ah," the judge said. "The bride?" 

"Yes," she smiled at him. Kenneth came over to her and 
took over the rest of the introductions. "And this is Mrs. 
Randolf, Pris s mother," he said, and made the rounds of 
all of them, the judge bowing and smiling to each one. Ken 
neth was easier with this older man, Harriet thought, than 


she had ever seen him with anyone. It was nice to see that 
it was possible for him to relax. 

They talked politely about the traffic problems of New 
York and the lovely weather for a few minutes, and then 
the judge looked down at his wrist-watch. 

"You re anxious to have it over with, I imagine," he said 
to Kenneth, "and Fve kept you waiting as it is. Shall we 

Harriet was amused at him; he had an air of haste which 
suggested that he probably had another appointment some 
where else, but he was implying that the hurry was for 
Kenneth s benefit. 

They formed into a suitable order, Kenneth and Pris 
standing before the judge and the others grouped in a semi 
circle in the background. Now that they all had to be silent, 
they were forced to drop their pretense. It was impossible 
to keep smiling while Kenneth stood there like a large calf 
and Pris stood by his side with her face hard and still a 
little red around the eyes. Harriet thought back to when 
she had first known Pris and how lovable she had been then, 
with her tennis and her horseback riding and her puppy- 
dog flirtations. All that same roundness and blondeness was 
still there, but it had been galvanized into a woman, it was 
not a child who was being married. The sun came in the 
windows, making the judge squint as he went through the 
ritual in his dry little voice, his sharp eyes going from one 
face to the other, as if he too were beginning to see that this 
was no ordinary ceremony. Some of his rather professional 
good-humor left his face and you could see the serious man, 
still likeable but tired, and a little troubled. 

"Have you a ring?" he asked Kenneth at the end, and 

276 April i<)4o-July 1940: 

Joel jerked forward to pull it out of his pocket. "Here you 
are, sir," he said. 

The judge took the little circle, so small that you could 
hardly see it, in his pudgy hand, and handed it to Kenneth. 
"You ll want to put it on," he said, and Kenneth turned 
dumbly towards Pris. As she stretched out her finger she 
smiled again, genuinely this time, probably from relief that 
it was nearly over. "And now you may kiss the bride," the 
judge said to Kenneth. He watched them somberly as Ken 
neth bent over and kissed Pris, almost missing her mouth in 
his awkwardness. "Well," he said when they turned to 
wards him again, "that s all." And as they still seemed to 
wait, "You re married now," he said. "Will you sign the 

He brought it out and a fountain pen, and laid them on 
the table. Kenneth came over to sign and the others surged 
around Pris, released from their silence. Elaine was weep 
ing, Harriet saw, but she was no longer indignant, she 
wanted to put an arm around Elaine s shoulders. Whatever 
else had happened couldn t change the fact that she was see 
ing the last of her children marry. It must have finally made 
her realize that Pris was grown-up, and it was forcing her 
to say good-bye to a part of her life. 

"Darling," she said, putting her arms around Pris and 
holding her. Pris let her stay there for a moment but her 
face had tightened and Harriet saw that it was making her 
miserable. She went over to them and took Elaine s arm. 
"Now, Elaine," she said, smiling at her. "This is no time to 
cry. Come on and have some champagne. Joel s opening a 
bottle." She led her off and saw Pris look at her gratefully. 
For a time then, Pris stood alone. In the fluctuations of the 


room, she had been unintentionally deserted, and Harriet, 
who was still watching her, saw her look around her sud 
denly as if she were trying to find a way to escape. There 
are so many things lor her to think of now, Harriet 
thought. The marriage, Kenneth s unhappiness, the child she 
is going to have. All of them must have struck her at that 
minute. But it was very fleeting. In another second Kit 
came up to her with one of the glasses of champagne, and 
her face opened again and she smiled. 


Harriet rang the doorbell to Kit s apartment and stood, 
holding out her umbrella. As she waited she looked down 
at the oiled silk with the raindrops sliding off it. Joel had 
given it to her that morning for her birthday, and as he had 
given it to her before she had gone to work, his usual good 
humor had slipped for a moment and he had made an un 
pleasant little speech. "I bought this out of my own allow 
ance," he had said bitterly. It had spoiled the birthday en 
tirely. The others had made quite a fuss over her. Elaine 
had given her an amethyst pin which had belonged to her 
mother. It was ringed with small pearls and it was a lovely 
thing. Pris had sent her a present from Norwalk, an expen 
sive, fitted leather pocketbook. And now Kit had brought 
her a dress from Considine s and asked her to stop by after 
work and try it on. But Joel had spoiled all of this for her. 
He had seemed to resent that she had a birthday. Probably 
it was because he remembered the last one, when they had 
gone out to dinner together and he had given her a wrist- 
watch. She pitied him, it was so hard for him to be happy 
these days. He sat round the apartment aimlessly and had 
nothing to do. Elaine had persuaded him to wash the dishes 

278 April i $40- July 1940: 

once, but he had broken two of them and after that she had 
saved them for Harriet when she got home. 

Kit opened the door for her and put her head out cau 
tiously. "Oh, hello," she said. "I m not dressed, I wanted to 
see who it was." She let Harriet in, standing with her white 
toweling robe held around her. Her face was flushed and 
Harriet guessed that she had just been taking a bath. She 
had not yet unpinned her hair from the top of her head. 
"Come on back to the bedrom," she said. "I ve got your 
dress there. I hope you like it." 

"Am I too early?" Harriet asked. 

"Oh, no," Kit told her. "I m just loafing around and 

"Oh, that s right," Harriet said. "You were going to 
move. But I didn t realize it was so soon. I thought you d 
wait until October." 

Kit, who was preceding her down the hall, looked back 
at her curiously. "No, we decided to go ahead now," she 
said, and looked as if she wanted to say something more, 
but evidently changed her mind. 

In the bedroom there were opened trunks standing 
around and the curtains and rugs had been put away. Only 
the bed still looked splendid with its heavy spread. The 
dress was lying across it, and Kit picked it up and held it 
out to Harriet. 

"Here it is," she said, "Now if you don t like it, be hon 
est about it, I can change it for another one." 

Harriet stripped off her gloves and took it across her 
arms. It was an afternoon dress of a pale yellow Chinese 
damask, and there was a row of little crystal buttons down 
the front. It was more expensive and beautifully made than 


anything she had ever had before. "Oh, Kit!" she said. 
"This is too nice!" 

"Well, I got it at a reduction," Kit told her. "And with 
my discount it wasn t so expensive. Try it on, I want to see 
how it fits you. Do you like it?" 

"It s the loveliest thing I ve ever seen," Harriet said. She 
took off her linen suit hastily, throwing it across the bed 
without folding it. It looked somber and prosaic beside the 
yellow silk. When she picked up the dress, her hands, which 
were slightly roughened, pricked against it so that she felt 
as if she were catching each tiny thread. She slipped it over 
her head and buttoned it without looking at herself in the 
mirror. Kit exclaimed, "It s perfect for you!" and she 
moved over towards the dressing table to see it. 

It had broad shoulders and was narrowed through the 
body to emphasize the smallness of her waist. Below that it 
flared out generously; It was the most cunningly cut dress 
she had ever worn, she had not known that a dress could 
change her appearance so. She had thought of clothes be 
fore this as ornaments, rather than creative things. The yel 
low made her face look soft and not as pale as usual, and 
her hair spemed very dark. 

She stood looking at herself speechlessly and smoothing 
the folds of the skirt. "Look at it in the back," Kit said to 
her and she turned sideways, seeing a stranger in the glass, 
a stranger with the perfect figure of the magazine ads, 
nipped in at the waist, flaring to lovely breasts above and 
smooth hips below. "I didn t know they made dresses like 
this," she said. She had no feeling of possession about the 
garment, it was too beautiful, it was like the things you saw 
in windows to be admired but not owned. 

"We used to be able to afford things like that," Kit told 

280 April 1 9 40- July 

her. "I still can pick them up, of course, and now Pris will 
be able to buy them again. Maybe you ll see now one of 
the reasons we hated to give all that up so much." 

Harriet looked at her quickly. "Heavens," she said. "You 
make me feel guilty. I must have been preaching at you. I 
never mean to, really I don t, Kit." 

"I know," Kit said soothingly. "You haven t preached, I 
didn t mean that. Well, you like the dress, don t you?" 

"I ve never had anything nice," Harriet said. She looked 
down at herself. But still she didn t envy women who 
owned this sort of thing. It was a responsibility to wear it, 
she felt nervous in it. And it was so lovely that she would 
never feel free to use it, it could only be saved for a special 
occasion. How ungrateful I am to think about it like this, 
she thought. Kit was so nice to get it for me. She smiled 
warmly at Kit. 

"I m glad you like it," Kit said. She moved out the dress 
ing-table bench and sat down on it. "Do you have to go 
home right away?" she asked. "Stay and talk to me a while, 
will you?" 

"I d love to," Harriet said impulsively, touched that Kit 
should want her. And then considered. "But I ought to be 
getting home pretty soon," she said. "I have to get dinner." 

"Listen!" Kit said. "Why don t you let them get their 
own dinner for a change?" 

"They don t know how to cook," Harriet said. She be 
gan taking off the dress, holding it carefully so as not to 
pull at it. Because it was so exquisite, she felt it must be 

"Well, anyway," Kit said, crossing her legs. "They can 
wait a while, can t they?" 

"I guess so," Harriet said, smiling at her. She began put- 


ting on her suit again, smoothing it down so that it wouldn t 
look quite so wrinkled. 

"I have a box for the dress," Kit said. "I ll wrap it up 
for you before you go." 

"Oh, thanks/ Harriet said. She leaned down and touched 
the dress again to feel its softness once more. "It certainly is 
a beautiful thing, Kit. I love it." 

Kit smiled at her and stood up. "Come on in the living 
room," she said, touching Harriet s arm. "We can be com 
fortable in there. I haven t seen you alone for a long time, 

"No, I know," Harriet murmured. She followed Kit 
down the hall again, looking at her straight white back. Kit 
had something she wanted to tell her, she suspected, she was 
making a great point of their talking together. 

The living room had been dismantled too. The rugs were 
up and the long, golden window curtains had been put 
away. The window panes had not been washed for a long 
time and in the gray of a rainy evening the spotty light 
coming through them made the room look lonely. There 
were packing cases on the floor for the china and the books 
and all the pictures had been taken down oif the wall. It 
was not like June, it was like the end of summer, in the 
room. Harriet sneezed. She was beginning to catch a little 
cold. . 

"How s the job going?" Kit asked her. She sat down on 
the couch and patted a cushion beside her for Harriet to 
sit on. 

"All right," Harriet said. "I m branching out. Didn t Joel 
tell you? I thought he saw you yesterday." 

"You ought to know better than to think Joel would 
talk about your job," Kit said. "That dog-in-the-manger!" 

282 April 1 940- July 1940: 

Harriet was shocked and must have shown it in her face, 
because Kit reached over and took her hand. "Don t be 
sore," she said. "I just had a hard session with Joel. I don t 
know how you put up with him. He seemed to think that 
all I had to do was to stretch out my little finger and I 
could get him a job in the advertising department at Con- 
sidine s. Well, in the first place, there s no opening, and in 
the second place, I m darned if I m going to recommend 
relatives of mine to my own office. Think how embarras 
sing it will be for all of us if he does a bad job." 

Harriet was still troubled, and she forgot what she had 
been going to say. "Kit, you don t really mean that," she 
said. "You sound too callous for words." 

Kit s face softened. "You know why we re all so fond of 
you?" she asked Harriet. 

"No," Harriet said, feeling embarrassed. "Why?" 

"Because you always think the best of us," Kit said. 
"We re a bunch of bums, really, but you couldn t be per 
suaded of it, could you?" 

Harriet laughed. "I hate to have you make me out so vir 
tuous," she said. "If you said I was a scoundrel, I d be more 
pleased. I think you re exaggerating, anyway. About your 
selves, I mean. You re all nice people, that s way I like you." 

"I won t argue with you," Kit said. "Because I know Pm 
right. What did you mean about branching out?" 

"Oh," Harriet said, remembering what she had meant to 
tell Kit. "It s Mr. Mac s agent, Coles Hanson. He s giving 
me some manuscripts to read. He s the man I told you about 
who offered me a job when his assistant gets married. It 
isn t steady work, you know, but I can do it in my spare 
time, and it s fun, and it brings in some extra money." 


"What do yon mean, reading manuscripts?" Kit said. 
"Do you say whether they re good or not?" 

"I make a report on them," Harriet said. "Describe the 
plot, and criticize them. It s pleasant work, I always liked 
to read." 

"And you do it in your spare time," Kit said, nodding to 
herself. "At night, I suppose." 

"Sometimes/ Harriet said. "Sometimes at Mr. Mac s 
when there isn t anything else to do. He suggested it him 
self. I have to be there to answer the phone, anyway." 

"That s just ducky," Kit said. She looked at Harriet in 
dignantly. "And in between times you cook for my 

"Mine, too," Harriet said. She wanted to resist Kit s an 
ger, without making it seem important. "It s fun, Kit," she 
said. "I like it." 

"I bet you do," Kit said. "Why don t you have a baby 
too? That would be all you needed." 

"I can t do that," Harriet said, answering her seriously so 
as to avoid the implications of her irony. "For a while yet. 
But when Joel gets a job, maybe we ll be able to. Then I 
can quit Mr. Mcllvaine." 

"You stick to Mr. Mcllvaine," Kit said. "And birth con 
trol. If you want my advice." 

Harriet went on, still ignoring her, "In September we 
can move out of that big apartment," she said. "The lease 
will be up then. And find something smaller. Now that Pris 
is gone, we rattle around up there." 

Kit leaned back against the back of the couch and 
reached up to unpin her hair. It fell on either side of her 
face, dark and curly, and made her look younger. She 
stretched out her long legs in front of her. There was a fly 

284 April 2 $40- July 

buzzing around the room somewhere, it made the only 
noise in it, and the two women said nothing. Harriet lis 
tened, half-hypnotized, to the little sound as it zoomed 
closer to her and then darted away. The rain had stopped, 
she noticed absent-mindedly, and the sky was a little lighter 
now, there were streaked clouds which she could see 
through the windows. She wondered what Kit was think 
ing. She didn t want Kit s championship, although it flat 
tered her. She didn t want it, because she was not like Kit. 
Kit was becoming too independent, and she expected others 
to be the same way. She had forgotten what it meant to be 
long to a family, that when you live with a number of 
people you must make adjustments. That it was worth it, for 
in return you got gaiety and support, a greater strength than 
you could ever have alone. Kit would argue, if you dis 
cussed it with her, that the true strength was in being able 
to stand alone. Her father would have agreed. But she 
thought they were both wrong, even though they had 
come to their conclusions so differently. All the theories of 
government were built to help men and women to live to 
gether. That was what civilization aimed at. By remaining 
an individual, you were perhaps admirable in yourself, but 
you were missing the point, and avoiding the harder thing: 
the art of living with other people, which was more diffi 
cult, but which had such a great reward. 

She said, because the silence had become too long, 
"Where s Gray? Isn t he around?" 

She saw immediately that Kit had been thinking too, she 
had forgotten Harriet. She turned towards her now as if she 
were realizing she was still there. "Gray?" she said daz 
edly. "Oh, no, he isn t here." She paused and Harriet was 
uncomfortable. What was the trouble? she wondered. 


Shouldn t she have asked? She smoothed her skirt down 
over her knees and started to say something else, but Kit 
interrupted her. "I didn t know quite how to tell you," she 
said. "But Gray and I are getting divorced." 

She let the statement fall flatly, and Harriet sat looking 
ahead of her as if she could see it printed in the air and was 
reading it over again before she could take it in. "You are?" 
she asked. Then it penetrated more vividly and she turned. 
"Kit!" she said. "You re fooling! Not really?" 

"Yes," Kit said, still with monotony. "We talked it over 
and decided it was best. We ve been thinking about it for 
some time but we haven t been able to aif ord it up to now." 

"Where are you getting it?" Harriet asked. She felt that 
she must ask all the standard questions, learn all the small 
details before she dared ask the bigger ones. 

"In Reno," Kit said. "Gray s going to get it. He left yes 
terday. I couldn t quit my job, and he doesn t have any 
thing to hold him here." Her mouth quirked bitterly. 

"But Joel told me he was getting a job this fall," Harriet 
said. "Isn t he?" 

"In New Mexico," Kit said. "How could I go out there? 
He seemed to think I should just throw up everything and 
follow him like a squaw." 

Harriet remembered the talk she had had with Gray long 
ago, last December or January, it had been, about this very 
possibility. He must have known then how this would end. 
And she had thought he was foolish. 

"If that s the trouble," she said, to Kit, "don t you think 
you ought to wait a while? Maybe Gray can get a job in 
the East later. You could separate for a little while now and 
see how you feel about it then." 

"No," Kit said. "We re all washed up, anyway. We re 

286 - April ip^o-July 2940: 

not the same sort of people. Gray s too spineless, I couldn t 
respect a man like him. I want a husband that I can respect 
or none at all." 

"But you didn t use to feel this way," Harriet insisted. "I 
remember when you were first talking about getting a job, 
it was you who insisted that Gray go on with his work." 

"Sure," Kit said. "But I ve changed, just like the rest of 
us. We never worried about anything then. I didn t know 
how things like this can work on people. I didn t realize 
that every little word would have to be watched, that I 
would be stepping on Gray s toes continually. I can t go 
on living that way, Harriet, it s too damned much of a 
strain. I had to be so careful not to hurt his pride, not to 
offend his notions about me, everything I said had to be 
thought out ahead of time. It was impossible." 

Yes, Harriet thought, it would be hard for her to be tact 
ful, she says things so impulsively. "But Kit," she said. "I 
always thought Gray was so swell about his position. \ 
never thought he had false pride about it. It was one of the 
things I admired about him, that he accepted it, and he 
wasn t super-sensitive about it." 

"Hell! " Kit said. "How would you know? You never 
said anything rude in your life. But me, I was always put 
ting my foot in it. And it wasn t just that he wasn t work 
ing, Harriet. The worst thing was the way he objected to 
my job. He thought it was spoiling me, he thought I was 
getting mean and vicious, a regular harpy, he called me 
once. You d think I was taking candy away from babies, 
the way he talked. I couldn t stand it, nobody can stand be 
ing a villainess for long." 

"But he didn t think you were a villainess," Harriet said. 
"He was so much in love with you. He just hated to see 


you change, that s reasonable, isn t it? He fell in love with 
you as you were at first." 

"Was he talking to you about it?" Kit said suspiciously. 

"Yes," Harriet said with honesty. "He talked about it 
once, a long time ago. It just sort of spilled out, I guess, he 
was feeling particularly upset at the moment. I didn t take 
him very seriously, I m sorry to say." 

"My God, that s the last straw," Kit said. "Going around 
complaining to other people! It wasn t bad enough to ham 
mer at me every night when I came home!" 

Harriet thought, it s hard to tell how much truth there is 
to this, Kit exaggerates so. Knowing Gray, I can t believe 
that he nagged at her. He had too much intelligence to do 

Kit looked at her sullenly. "I suppose you re on his side," 
she said. Some of her warmth and youthfulness had gone, 
she was dignified now. 

"How could I be on anybody s side?" Harriet said 
swiftly. "When I m so fond of both of you. Oh, Kit, I wish 
you hadn t done this. I remember when I first met you, you 
made such a nice couple, you balanced each other so well. I 
hate to see you break it up." 

"We balanced each other only because we were so dif 
ferent," Kit said. "But when things got serious, and we 
couldn t be casual any longer, we found out that it was a 
mistake. The differences only rubbed against each other. 
Anyway, it s done now, there s no use weeping about it." 

"I suppose not," Harriet said limply. So many things are 
happening, she thought. When Joel and I got married, I 
knew my life would change, but I didn t think it would 
keep on changing. I feel breathless from trying to readjust 
myself all the time. 

288 April two-July 1940: 

Kit said softly, "It will seem a little strange at first, I 
guess." She looked around at her sad, graceless living room. 
"Ill move to a smaller place and set up housekeeping for 
myself. Fm not sorry, you know, Harriet, but when you ve 
always lived with somebody it seems empty to live alone." 

Harriet said quickly, moved by Kit s first sign of weak 
ness, "Come and stay with us. You can have Pris s room. 
We don t need to move. It ll be nice for us all to be together 

Kit looked at her, her black eyes narrowed. "Not me," 
she said. "I know when I m well off." 

They were silent for a moment, Harriet absorbing what 
Kit had said. 

"What do you mean?" she asked finally. 

"You know what I mean," Kit said. "Even you can t kid 
yourself that much. I mean that my family is a bunch of 
parasites and Fm not going to saddle myself with them." 

"Oh, Kit," Harriet said pleadingly. "For heaven s sake, 
you don t mean that. They re having bad luck now, 
that s all" 

"Bad luck!" Kit said. She laughed and her voice was 
harsh. "You don t think it will ever change, do you? Joe] 
will never get a job, or at least not a decent one. Elaine will 
go on weeping and being sorry for herself. You ll go on 
supporting all of them, taking care of them and changing 
their diapers." 

"No," Harriet said, closing her mouth tightly after the 

"Can t you stand to recognize the truth about them?" 
Kit said to her. "I suppose not, or you wouldn t stay on." 
"It isn t the truth," Harriet said. She suddenly wanted to 

NEW YORK . 289 

cry and she could only let a few words escape at a time, or 
tears would come with them. 

"Why do you stay?" Kit said. "Why don t you get 

"Because I don t want to," Harriet said, still tightly. 

Kit turned sideways on the couch and took Harriet s two 
hands in hers. "Listen, Harriet," she said. "Please don t be 
angry with me. Fm worried about you, I want you to be 
free of them while you can. You can take care of yourself, 
you can have a fine life for yourself alone. But it s too much 
for you to take care of all of them. You re so little and thin, 
Fm afraid for you. You re doing too much work, you re 
not getting any fun out of it. Please, Harriet, listen to me. 
Take this seriously." 

"I am," Harriet said. The impulse for tears had gone just 
as suddenly, and she felt brave. "I know you mean what 
you say." 

"Then take my advice," Kit begged her. "You re better 
than any of us. It s not fair for us to swamp you. You didn t 
know what you were getting into when you married Joel." 

"I hadn t thought about it much," Harriet admitted. "But 
if I had I would have known that there would he hard 
things to look forward to. I didn t expect anything to be 
easy. Very few people have everything the way they 

want it." 

"Oh," Kit said angrily. "That s all very well. If you want 
to lie down and accept everything that happens. But you can 
do something about it, that s what I m trying to tell you. 
You can get away from all this, you can be happy and in 
dependent. You re not the kind of person to stand around 
and take whatever comes to you without doing anything 
about it." 

290 April i$40-July 2940: 

"I suppose not," Harriet said. "But I am doing something 
about it. I have a job which keeps all of us living. Fm hope 
ful " 

"But what are you doing for yourself?" Kit asked. 
"That s what I m doing for myself/ Harriet said angrily. 
"Fm not being unselfish. It s important to me for Joel and 
Elaine to be happy. And you and Pris, too. Darn it, Kit, 
can t you understand that?" 

Kit sighed and let go of Harriet s hands. She twisted a 
lock of her hair thoughtfully. "I suppose there s no arguing 
with you," she said. "You re a tough, stubborn little thing, 
aren t you? You look so soft, too." 

Harriet smiled, unwillingly. "Kit," she said, "I ll make a 
bargain with you." 
"What s that?" Kit asked her. 

"I won t say anything about Gray if you won t say any 
thing about Joel," Harriet said. "I ll take your word for it 
that you re not in love with Gray. Will you please take my 
word for it that I m in love with Joel?" 

Kit laughed. "I didn t mean to meddle," she said. "All 
right, I ll make the bargain. But damn it, Harriet--" 

Harriet held up her hand warningly and Kit smiled again. 
"O.K., O.K.," she said. She stood up and looked around the 
room at her bare walls. "Will you excuse me a second?" she 
said abruptly. Harriet watched her leave thoughtfully. Poor 
Kit, she was so savage against her family because they made 
her feel in the wrong. She knew they wouldn t sympathize 
with her about Gray, she was encasing herself in a hard, 
defensive mood so that they couldn t attack her. She s 
ashamed of staying away from them, Harriet thought, of 
cutting herself away from the responsibility. That s why 
she wants me to do it too, I would justify her if I left them. 


She heard noises from the bedroom, Kit s footsteps mov 
ing around and the rustling of tissue paper, and wondered 
what she was doing there. There was a defenseless feeling 
to sitting alone here, sunk in the deep, heavily cushioned 
couch, with her back to the door. She stood up and walked 
around the room. It had given her a strange feeling, this 
talk with Kit. She had not just been the listener, she had 
been the important person. Kit had been begging her for 
something. Kit has changed, she thought, she used to be so 
sure, I used to be almost afraid of her. But today she only 
made me feel sad. It was so easy to understand her and so 
hard to refuse her. 

She heard Kit s footsteps coming down the hall, her 
mules clacking on the bare boards. She came in, carrying 
a long cardboard box, tied with red string. "Here s the 
dress," she said briefly. "I wrapped it up for you." 

There was something about the way. she kept her eyes 
turned away and stretched out the box to Harriet that 
looked almost as if she were begging her to leave. 

It s my fault, Harriet thought; in a way I shut her up and 
now she feels that I m against her. She would have liked to 
tell Kit that this wasn t so, but she didn t know how to 
express it without bringing things into the open which they 
hadn t mentioned. Instead she took the box with a smile. 
"Thanks," she said. "I guess it is getting late." 

Kit remained stiff, and Harriet leaned towards her, put 
ting one hand on her shoulder. "Good-bye," she whispered. 
"Don t worry too much." And kissed her. Under her hand 
she felt Kit s shoulder relax as if it had melted. 

292 April 1 940- July 194.0: 

There was so much humidity in the air that her hair 
would never dry, Harriet thought, looking sideways at it as 
it lay spread on her shoulders. It was heavy against the sides 
of her face and it looked lifeless. Even if it did dry, it would 
be limp and stick too closely to her head. 

She stretched her legs out in the deck chair and leaned 
back to close her eyes. Six days of this heat, one after the 
other, had finally taken the vigor out of her. She was glad 
that today was Sunday, that she didn*t have to dress and go 
down in the street. She was glad that she didn t have to sit 
tightly and correctly beside Mr. Mcllvaine and look neat 
for his benefit. Through her eyelashes she saw the chimney 
pots and the brick railing of the roof, all grimy and blister 
ing from the sun. It was no cooler here, really, than it was 
in the apartment. There was a little breeze, but it was hot 
and moist. And it was so dirty. Her hand left the arm of 
the chair and she looked at it. It was already streaked gray. 

Joel by her side lit another cigarette and blew the smoke 
through his nose with a quick puff. Harriet wished that he 
would shave, today at any rate. He was so slovenly now, he 
hung around the apartment in a pair of shorts and some old 
bedroom slippers, rarely shaving, hardly combing his hair, 
his eyes a little bleary from having drunk too much the 
night before. He got much too much to drink now that Pris 
kept them supplied. On the occasions when he was gay and 
pleasant, it seemed incongruous under that exterior. She 
looked sideways so that he wouldn t notice her. He had 
such a cleanly built face, it was a shame not to wear the 
starched collars and the freshly pressed suits that should 
complement it. One of the first things that had impressed 


her about him was his neatness. His clothes had hung so 
straight from his broad shoulders, there had never been 
wrinkles in them. Her father s suits had always wrinkled at 
the knees and around the waist, showing in their creases 
how his body creased when he sat down. Joel was not fat 
enough to affect his clothes that way now, but there was a 
hollow look to them, the knees bagged out, and so did the 
seat of the trousers. You felt, as you looked at him, that 
perhaps there was nothing inside of his clothes, they were 
like the garments on a scarecrow. 

What was it that bothered her so much? It s that I m so 
numb to him, she thought, almost afraid to put it into 
words. He s like a piece of furniture to me, the way I sit 
looking at him, speculating whether he should be repaired 
here or there, wondering how long he ll last, and whether 
he was a good buy. It s inhuman, do married people get this 
way, do they get so that they are simply accepting the 
other person as part of their life, whether good or bad? 

Suddenly something quivered in her stomach and she felt 
nauseated. I must have eaten something for breakfast that 
disagreed with me, she thought. Or maybe it s the heat. But 
it made her miserably limp and she was afraid to move, for 
fear it would precipitate the sickness. She forgot what she 
was thinking about, this feeling took hold of her thoughts 
and she must have turned pale, because Elaine on her other 
side suddenly said, "What s the matter, Harriet? You don t 
look well." 

Joel sat up and looked at her, and she felt an impulse to 
clasp her hands over her stomach to hide it from them. It 
was the same impulse an animal feels which wants to hide 
when it is wounded. "I m all right," she said to Elaine. 
"The heat s got me a little bit, I guess." 

294 April i<)4Q-July 1940: 

"Poor baby," Joel said tenderly, and she forgot her 
wretchedness for a moment and responded to his affection. 
"It isn t anything, really, darling," she said, turning her eyes 
to look at him without moving her head. She smiled and 
watched how his answering smile changed his tired, dingy- 
looking face. 

"Shall I move your chair around so you re more in the 
shade?" he asked her. "Maybe that ll help." 

"Oh, no!" she said quickly, and then, so she wouldn t 
alarm him, she said, "I don t mind the sun, my hair will 
never get dried in the shade. This is fine, Joel." 

"Well," he said doubtfully, and leaned back again. 

She wanted to get their minds off her, she didn t want 
them to know about her queasiness, but her own mind was 
too concerned with it to find a change of subject easily. She 
tried to smile reassuringly. 

The huge stairway door opened across the roof and dis 
tracted them mercifully. It was Kit coming towards them, 
dressed in dark-green linen and a huge, natural-colored 
straw hat. She looked elegant and cool, and Harriet sud 
denly felt ashamed for all of them, Elaine in her dowdy 
cotton print, Joel unshaven, and she with her hair down 
on her shoulders, wet and stringy. 

"Why, Kit!" Elaine said, eagerly, leaning towards her. 
"We hadn t expected you. I m so glad you came. I was just 
thinking this wasn t like Sunday at all, with Pris away and 

"Just us, and we re here all the time," Joel said bitterly. 

"I thought I was going away for the weekend," Kit said, 
"but I had to work yesterday so I stayed in town. Got 
enough lunch for me? " 

Oh, Lord, Harriet thought, I d forgotten, I ll have to get 


lunch for them. I can t bear the thought of looking at food. 
Her stomach turned at the idea. 

"Hello, Harriet," Kit said almost humbly. Harriet smiled 
at her, trying to look cordial, although it was hard when she 
was feeling so miserable. 

"Can I sit down here?" Eat asked. She perched on the 
foot of Harriet s deck chair, and Harriet moved her legs 
feebly to get them out of her way. 

"Are you all settled in your new place now?" Elaine 
asked Eat. 

She nodded non-committally. She and Elaine had quar 
reled when she had told them about the divorce. Elaine had 
wanted her to come and live with them, and Kit had re 
fused stubbornly. 

"I m very elegant," she said in her gay, light voice, try 
ing to pretend that there was nothing behind their words. 
"Very much the bachelor girl. You must come over and see 
it, Elaine." 

"Well, I will," Elaine said. Her blue eyes, surrounded 
now by little wrinkles, were petulant, "When you ask me," 
she added. 

"Any time," Eat said impatiently. "You sound as if I 
had something to hide." 

"Oh, no," Elaine said airily and irritatingly. "I didn t 
mean that, of course. I just thought you didn t want to be 
bothered with your family too often." 

Kit said to Harriet, ignoring Elaine very obviously, 
"How s the job going? Getting any more outside work?" 

Harriet nodded, but she was too reluctant to talk. She 
was afraid that if she opened her mouth too often she 
would be really sick. "It s going fine," she said, smiling so 
that she wouldn t sound too abrupt. 

296 April i$40-July 1940: 

"Good/ Kit said. "Say, listen, it just occurred to me. 
Why don t you come up to Considine s and see if you can 
get some work writing for their house-organ?" 

Harriet looked in shocked silence at Joel, and saw him 
stiffen. Oh, God, she thought. Hasn t Kit got any sense? 
After turning Joel down, to offer a chance to me. I ll never 
be able to coax him out of this. 

"But you said there weren t any openings," she said to 
Kit. She nudged her on the other side with her foot, trying 
to indicate Joel, and she saw the sudden awareness in Kit s 

"Oh, well," Kit said, stumbling. "Thei^e aren t any, 
really. I mean any full-time jobs. But I thought you might 
do odd pieces for them or something. I don t really know 
how they do the thing. It was just an idea." 

Joel s face settled into grimness. He was not appeased, but 
he had evidently decided against making any protest. 

"Gray did a piece for them once," Kit went on, still try 
ing to smooth over things. "I ve forgotten what they paid 
him. It wasn t much, I remember, but it would be some 

"Oh, dear," Elaine said irrelevantly. "I do miss Gray. 
Especially on Sundays. Do you remember how he always 
used to do the crossword puzzle on Sunday, Harriet?" 

Kit stared at her angrily. "You might be a little more 
tactful, Elaine," she said. "Sometimes I think you carry that 
blank way of talking a bit too far." 

"You re always jumping on me for being foolish," Elaine 
said pettishly. She was not like a woman, but like a little 
girl. It was impossible to believe that she was talking to a 
grown-up daughter. "You re always picking on me, Kit," 
she said. 


"Well, do you wonder?" Kit said. "Talking to me like 
that. Listen, I know you like Gray and you re all sore be 
cause we re getting divorced, but you don t have to remind 
me of it, do you? I m your daughter, after all, it s me you re 
going to keep on seeing, not Gray. Try to pretend at least 
that you re glad to have me around." 

Harriet turned uneasily in her chair; She felt fuzzy, her 
mind couldn t follow the two angry women, because her 
stomach intruded at every sentence. Oh, stop it, she thought 
feebly. Can t you be quiet and peaceful just for today? 

"I didn t say anything, did I?" Elaine said complainingly. 
She turned to Joel and to Harriet for their support, but 
neither of them said anything. Joel looked silently down 
at his hands. "You re too sensitive," Elaine went on. "All 
I said was that I missed Gray. I have a right to do that, 
haven t I?" 

"Sure," Kit said. "But you might have the decency to 
miss him to yourself. Or when I m not here." She opened 
her purse angrily and drew out a cigarette case. Harriet 
watched her aimlessly, seeing the flash of the gold case, and 
the little flare of her lighter, the sun dimming the flame so 
that you could hardly tell it was lit. 

"I don t like you to talk to me that way," Elaine said, 
falling back now on her dignity, but too late. Her voice 
was still whining. "I am your mother, after all." 

"My God!" Kit said, looking up to the sky and blowing 
out a cloud of smoke furiously. "This is the first time you 
ever brought that up!" 

"Well" Elaine said inadequately. 

Oh, please be quiet, Harriet thought. Something fluttered 
in her stomach and she felt a rush of saliva in her mouth. 

29 8 April i$4o-July 1940: 

I can t stand this any longer, she thought, if they don t 

Elaine gathered up her forces. "You re becoming so 
ruthless, Kit," she said. "I can t understand you any longer. 
I don t see how you can blame me for being shocked. The 
way you got rid of Gray! It was like kicking out a dog. 
It was inhuman." 

"Sure," Joel said suddenly in a false jocularity which 
rubbed them all the wrong way. "You re setting a bad 
example, Kit. If you don t watch out, Harriet will be boot 
ing me out too, and then what will we do?" 

Kit, infuriated by Elaine so that her face was red and 
appallingly angry, turned on him. "You shut up!" she said. 
"You know damn well that you ll be taken care of. Don t 
start grousing now." 

Oh, God, Harriet thought. 

"Listen!" Joel said, getting up from his chair and going 
to lean over Kit. Harriet flinched at the temper in his face, 
and the movement made her head feel weak. She put one 
hand up to her eyes. "I m getting sick and tired of the way 
you come back here and crow over us. Who do you think 
you are? Mrs. God? Listen, anybody could lie and cheat 
and tell tales behind somebody s back. That s all you ve 
done to be such a success. There s no reason for you to 
come and lord it over us. Leave me alone! Leave Harriet 
alone, will you?" 

"Children, children," Elaine said. Her blue eyes filled 
with tears and again Harriet found it incongruous to see 
her upset. The delicate skin of her face stretched over the 
tautened muscles in it, and she reddened unbecomingly. 
"I can t stand this bickering," she said. "I can t stand it. 
Now be quiet." 


Her thin, sweet voice hoarsened in an effort to be im 
pressive and it was such an ugly sound that it had more 
effect than a stronger one would have. That s right, Har 
riet thought, closing her eyes. Please, just a little peace 
and quiet. There was a bitter taste in her mouth now, and 
she kept swallowing to try and get rid of it. 

"Sorry, Elaine," Joel said sullenly. He went back to 
his chair and sat down. The momentary pause made both 
him and Kit see themselves as they had been. Their bodies 
relaxed, their faces went back to normal. They were still 
angry, but they were controlled for the moment. 

"I get so sick and tired of all this," Elaine went on, and 
Harriet felt her heart jump with fear. Why doesn t she 
leave them alone now, she thought. "Always quarreling, 
always something wrong. You used to be different, we 
used to be happy together, what s the matter with all of 
you? I can t understand it. And you do such terrible things! 
Joel getting drunk all the time and Eat going around with 
those horrible people and divorcing her husband. What is 
it? What s wrong with you? Honestly, I don t feel like 
you re my family any more. The only one who s decent 
and normal is Pris. Perhaps she s right to stay away and 
lead her own life." 

"My God!" Joel said, appalled, and he turned to look 
at Kit. The same ironic smile grew on both their faces. 

"Pris is decent and normal, eh?" Kit said, laughing. 
"Well, I m glad to get a line on your moral code, Elaine. 

"Yes, Pris," Elaine said defiantly. "She s married, and 
her husband is respectable and can take care of her. They re 
going to have a baby. It s lovely. She s the only one of you 
who made anything out of her life at all." 

300 April i $40- July 1940: 

"I ll say she did," Kit said savagely. "She lassoed that 
poor nitwit like an expert. I guess Elaine s right, Joel. Pris 
did better for herself than any of us." 

Joel nodded grimly. Harriet s eyes felt tired from travel 
ing back and forth among them. She shut them, trying to 
cut them out of her sight, but she couldn t stop herself 
from hearing them and with her eyes closed she seemed to 
intensify the eifect of their anger. Their words battered 
around her head until she felt dizzy from them. 

"I don t know what you mean!" Elaine said indignantly. 
Her voice showed that she did know. "When two people 
are in love, there s no reason why they shouldn t marry, is 
there?" Her voice grew feeble as if she was not even con 
vincing herself. 

"Love is so wonderful, isn t it, Joel?" Kit said. Her voice 
sounded sharp to Harriet behind her closed eyes. 

"Yes," Joel said. His voice, usually so smooth, was 
scratchy. "Touching, wasn t it? A real romance. Just like 
the movies." 

"Stop it! " Elaine said frantically. 

Something big rose in Harriet s stomach, cutting out her 
breath. She opened her eyes and spoke involuntarily. It 
sounded more like a groan. "Oh, can t you keep quiet!" 
she saici. 

They turned to her, all of them, and something in their 
appalled expressions made her lash out at them. They don t 
expect me to ever be angry, she thought grimly. I m sup 
posed to sit by and simper at them while they tear each 
other to pieces. "You make me sick, all of you," she said, 
furiously. "Can t you be pleasant for one day at least? You 
fight all the time. Fm tired of it. I m tired of hearing Joel 
complain. It s not his fault that he s out of work, but it s 


not our fault either, and I m sick of having to take the 
brunt of it. I m tired of hearing Kit attacking all of you 
because she s ashamed of herself. I m tired of hearing Elaine 
wailing about the good old days. They re over. That s all. 
Why don t you make up your mind to it and try to live 
the way other people live?" 

The thing in her stomach boiled and she kept swallow 
ing, between words, fighting to control herself. "You 
haven t seen Kit for weeks," she went on. "And you com 
plain about it all the time she s away. But the minute she 
does come to see you, you fight with her. I m sick of it. I 
can t stand it any more." But now she couldn t hold back 
any longer. She couldn t speak, she had to get away quickly. 
She had to get downstairs. She was going to be sick. They 
were only obstructions in her way, not figures, not her 
husband and her family. She got up, spraddle-legged from 
the chair, pushing Kit aside in her urgency. She had a brief 
glimpse of Joel with his mouth open stupidly and then 
she rushed past him to the stairway. If only she could hold 
herself in, she thought. Until she could get downstairs. 

"Harriet!" she heard Joel say behind her and heard his 
footsteps following her. Oh, leave me alone, she thought, 
I can t stop now. 

The elevator wasn t in sight and she couldn t wait for 
it. She started down the stairs running, holding her hand 
to her mouth. Behind her she heard their footsteps, Joel s 
heavy, taking two steps at a time, and Kit s high heels clack 
ing. The door, the door, she kept thinking. But when she 
got down there she remembered she hadn t her key, Joel 
had it in his pocket. Oh, God, she thought and leaned up 
against the doorpost. 

302 April 2$4o-July 

Joel was right behind her. "What is it, darling?" he 

She couldn t speak, she motioned with her hand at the 
door and mercifully he saw what she wanted. It seemed 
interminable while he pulled the key out of his pocket and 
fumbled with the lock. The sickness was all over her, all 
over her whole body, she couldn t hold it back any longer, 
she couldn t think of anything else but just the terrible 
mental effort of holding back. 

"There!" Joel said. He swung the door open for her and 
she dashed past him without speaking to him. At last she 
got into the bathroom, not troubling to close the door be 
hind her. She heard their voices dimly a long distance away, 
she thought. She retched violently and was ill. It was so 
wonderful, such a relief to be able to be sick at last. There 
was another attack of vomiting just as she thought it was 
over and finally she leaned against the bathroom wall, feel 
ing the cool tiles and closing her eyes to let the beat of 
blood in her body calm down. Gradually the strength 
drained out of her, she felt weaker and weaker, but clean, 
as if she had been scrubbed rigorously. All thought went 
away; she was aware only of her body. She felt her cheeks 
cool and the little spring of sweat on her forehead evapo 
rate. Her hair, where she had pressed her face against the 
wall, was rubbing against her temple and it was wet and 
cold. This is better, she thought, I feel much better. But 
she felt terribly lazy, I wish somebody would carry me 
to a couch somewhere, she thought, and I could lie down 
and close my eyes, and the window shades would be pulled 
down and everybody would soften their voices and I 
wouldn t have to think about anything, I wouldn t have 


to think about what I discovered just a minute ago up 
there on the roof. 

Now that she was no longer sick, she had to admit that 
there had been something else which had hit her up there. 
It had come as swiftly as the nausea and for the time she 
had confused the two in her mind. But the sickness had 
gone and the other feeling remained, she had to see it. It 
was oppressive too; she couldn t think of anything else. 

I am tired of them, all of them, she said to herself. Just 
as I told them. She let the words lie flatly in her conscious 
ness and for another second she didn t examine them. Her 
mind was as hollow as her body, there was a mist around 
her thoughts, which kept other thoughts from joining 
them, which isolated them until she could gather enough 
strength to look into them further. 

I am tired of them, she thought. Elaine, who s so foolish; 
Kit with her thoughtlessness, striving so hard to imitate 
a type of success that only that kind of intelligence would 
tell her is desirable. And Pris. Pris had wanted more than 
the rest of the world and she had gotten it even if she 
had to cheat the rest of the world by breaking their rules. 

She was so tired of them. She muttered something to 
herself, a nonsense word that didn t mean anything, her 
thoughts now deliriously mixed up. They had lost con- 
secutiveness, she hadn t the strength to organize them. She 
missed Gray, he had been on her side, Gray would have 
helped her now, he had already faced these things. And 
her father, but he was dead and at the time she had hardly 
even missed him. Only learned a little about him, but what 
good did that do when it made no impression on her. If 
he were still living she could go to him and he would be 

304 April i$4o-July 194.0: 

proud of her because she would be honest and tell him 
that she had made a mistake. 

Why? Why? she hammered at herself. Why did I stick 
to them, why was I so stubborn, I ve known all this, it 
isn t a sudden discovery, although this is the first time I ve 
admitted it. But it was there. That was why I looked at 
Joel angrily when he complained, and why I almost felt 
proud of myself because Kit was afraid of me, and why 
I told Pris what I thought of her. Each one of those things 
is a little fact, one of my father s little facts, fact a, and fact 
b, and fact c. And they add up just the way he said they 
would. Only I didn t add them because I didn t think they 
were facts. I didn t think I needed to be rational, I thought 
the Randolfs did it better, just acting on any stray impulse 
and taking their chances on whether they were right or 
wrong. So I didn t add the facts up. If I had, I would have 
seen long ago that I was tired of them. All of them. 

Even weak as she was, so that her mind resisted nothing 
that came into it, she had an impulse to shove that last 
thought away. All of them. But it came back again and 
she let herself look at it. Yes, Joel too. 

He had a gray face, and it only occasionally smiled now. 
And when he smiled it was worse, because his charm was 
undermining, it made her forget the times she looked at 
that face with dread, waiting for some new complaint to 
come out of it, waiting to jump on his words and take 
them and twist them and try to make them palatable to 

He spoke to her and for a second she thought it was 
part of her image. "Harriet, honey," he said, standing at 
the door, his voice hoarse. "What is it? What s the matter?" 
He was frightened and tender, but as she jerked to look 


at him, she didn t want him to be tender. She didn t want 
him to touch her, they communicated everything by touch, 
that was the way they understood each other, and if he 
touched her he might understand the things she was think 
ing about him. 

She pushed stiffly past him and went down the hall. The 
others were standing in the living room waiting for her. 
There were only the two of them and now Joel coming 
around to stand beside them, but it looked like a whole 
circle of faces. She felt that if she turned around she would 
be surrounded; they would be behind her too. They were 
all so frightened and it only irritated her. 

"Poor kid," Kit said to her. "Come on over and lie down 
on the couch. What was the matter? The heat, do you 

Harriet nodded listlessly and went over to the couch. 
She swung her legs up so that they rested on the cushions. 
It was not only that she had been sick that frightened them, 
she thought. They were afraid of what she had said. They 
were afraid that she really meant it. 

Elaine had been crying. She feels something, then, Har 
riet thought in a detached way. She s worried about me. 
But maybe it s about herself too. She s afraid I ll go away. 
And she s right, I think. Only not immediately. I ve got 
to know more definitely what I want. That s the scientific 
way, one experiment doesn t prove a formula. I ve got to 
think about it a few more days, and be sure I m right, be 
cause it will be a big upheaval to make all at once, my 
father wouldn t approve of me if I simply said good-bye 
and left right now. 

Joel and Kit were talking about her in soft voices. "She s 
been working too hard," Kit told Joel. Harriet saw with 

306 April 1940 July 1940: 

grim amusement that he got angry at that for a second, as 
if it were a reproach to him, and then forgot about it be 
cause he was upset. "I think she ought to see a doctor," he 

"So do I," Elaine said, moving over to him. Well, at least 
they all agree now, Harriet thought. They agree about me, 
they re all worried about me. They can t resist giving each 
other little pricks, but they re too worried to fight. Isn t 
it funny, I ve worked so long to keep them peaceful to 
gether, and now when I m going away it really affects 

"Shall I telephone one now?" Joel said. 

But I don t want a doctor, Harriet decided suddenly. 
She said to them, "No, don t do that, Joel. I m all right now. 
I feel very well, just a little weak, that s all." 

"Don t you think you ought to have one? Just to check 
up on you?" Joel asked her solicitously. They would do 
anything she said, Harriet thought wryly. But she shook 
her head. "No, really, Joel," she told him. Her voice was 
thin, but it impressed him, she didn t even have to raise it. 

"You re sure?" he said reluctantly, and she shook her 
head again. 

"Well, you lie down for a little while now," Kit said. 
"Don t try to talk. We ll be in the other room if you want 
us. Just close your eyes and don t think about anything." 

But I have such a lot to think about, Harriet thought. 
And I don t want them to go away, I want to look at them 
and see if I m right. 

"No, don t go in the other room," she said. "Stay here, 
you won t bother me. I don t feel like talking much, but 
I d like to listen to you." 

"You re sure?" Kit said. They all of them looked grate- 



ful. Isn t it pathetic, Harriet thought, how much they 
respect me. I must be quite callous not to be touched by it. 

She watched them take chairs around her and saw Kit 
light a cigarette and then start to put it out. "It s all right," 
she said feebly. "I don t mind it." And Kit looked ques- 
tioningly at her and then went on to puff at it. 

She hardly heard what they were saying, they started 
talking about her but they drifted on to something else, 
keeping their voices low. There was something else to think 
about. I can t just go off and leave them, she realized. I ll 
have to wait until Joel gets a job at least. I can t leave them 
until he does. I ll wait until he gets a job, and I ll help them 
to get settled in a smaller apartment and then just as soon 
as all that is done I ll go. 

But she couldn t tell them about this yet, although it 
was hard to hold it in her. She would have to wait until 
just before she left. So that it wouldn t be there between 

Kit stood up and looked down at Joel and Elaine. "Say," 
she said. "I imagine I d better do something about the lunch. 
Harriet won t feel like cooking today." 

"Oh, yes," Elaine said, waving her hand helplessly. She 
did nothing to help Kit and neither did Joel. 

Til just get some stuff out of the icebox," Kit said. "We 
don t need anything fancy. I m too hot to eat anyway, 
aren t you?" 

Harriet closed her eyes. I ve made potato salad, she 
thought, and there s raspberries, and then she reminded 
herself that it was not her concern. I m like an old fire- 
horse, she thought, smiling to herself. She heard the others 
get up and tiptoe out into the dining room. They think I m 
asleep, she thought, but I m too lazy to open my eyes and 

308 April i^o-July 1940: 

tell them Fm not. A little breeze began to come in the 
window over the couch and flapped the drawn window 
shades. She dozed off. 

When she woke up she saw that the sky through the 
window had grown gray. It must be very late, she thought, 
or else it s begun to rain. But there was no sound of rain, 
and when she got up on her knees and looked down into 
the street she saw that the street lamps were on. Goodness, 
I slept a long time, she thought. 

There seemed to be an additional noise out in the dining 
room. The doors were closed but she could see light coming 
under them, streaking the dimness. She listened, poised on 
her knees, with the blanket that Kit must have put over 
her, caught up in her hands. There were more than just 
Kit and Joel and Elaine, she decided. She heard another 
man s voice, but she couldn t quite make out who it was. 
She got up finally and tiptoed down the hall to the bath 
room. She wanted to wash her face and comb her hair 
before she went in, but she knew that if they heard her 
moving around they would all come out. 

She ran cold water over her wrists and then sloshed it 
over her face, which felt hot and puffy after the sleep. I m 
awfully logy, she thought, I don t feel too well, my back 
is still tired. But the water wakened her a little bit and 
her face looked more normal after she had dried it. She 
combed and pinned up her hair and put on fresh lipstick 

When she opened the dining-room door, letting light 
into her face, she saw that Kenneth and Pris were there 
with the others. They were all sitting around the big dining- 
room table drinking beer. The dishes from the lunch that 
they must have eaten long ago were still there but pushed 


to one side, and the ashtrays were overflowing. The room, 
even with its open windows, was smoky and stale-smelling. 

"Harriet!" Joel said, getting up so quickly that his chair 
scraped on the floor. "How are you feeling? Are you all 
right? I didn t hear you get up." 

"I m all right now," she said, smiling at him. 

Kenneth was standing too, and she smiled at him. "Come 
on," Kit said, getting up. "Let s go in the other room now 
and sit. I m tired of these dining-room chairs." 

They moved into the living room and Harriet walked 
quickly ahead of them so that Joel wouldn t put his arm 
across her shoulders and found herself a chair that wasn t 
too close to any of the others. 

"Don t you want to have the couch?" Kit asked her. 
"You ll be more comfortable." 

"No, thanks," Harriet said. "I ve been on it all after 

Pris was watching her carefully; she turned away so 
that she wouldn t meet her eyes. Pris and Kenneth were 
worried about her too, she thought. It should be nice to 
have all of them concerned about me, she thought. 

She hadn t seen Pris for quite a while; it was obvious 
now that she was pregnant. She was wearing a dress with 
a smock top which only half concealed her swelling body. 
That kind of dress is like a flag, Harriet thought. It s a 
warning that she s pregnant so that you can avert your 
eyes before you even see the evidence. Her round face was 
well filled-out and sun-tanned, and her hair was expensively 
groomed. It lay in a glossy fall on her shoulders, an adver 
tisement of health and money. 

"Has it been hot in the country?" Harriet asked her. If 

3io April 1 940- July 1940 

I can make her talk, she thought, I ll keep her from starinj 
at me. 

"Deadly," Pris said. "We simply live in the swimminj 
pool now." She looked smilingly and possessively at Ken 
neth and he returned the smile without looking at her. 

"What have you been doing with yourself?" Harrie 

"Nothing much," Pris said. Her face grew momentaril^ 
sulky, as it had been in the days she had lived there. " 
can t buzz around too much, you know. At least Kennet] 
thinks so. And he s so busy with his farm that it s like pull 
ing a tooth to get him to do any entertaining." 

"We have dinner parties nearly every night," Kennet 
told Harriet. They made her feel like a judge listening t 
two complainants. "And the house swarms with guests. 

"Well," Pris said. "You have your work to do, but 
don t have anything. It s natural that I should want com 

It was evidently an old argument and Kenneth let he 
words lie without discussing them. The way he raised h: 
eyebrows and changed the subject showed that he thougt 
it too painful to go into again. 

"How have you been?" he asked Harriet. "How s you 

"Fine," she said. "Mr. Mac is swell. I look forward t 
seeing him every day." 

She could see that Joel and Eat and Elaine were a litd 
impatient. Probably they had discussed all of this already 
But she had become engrossed again in the unspoken thin 
that lay between Kenneth and Pris, and she wanted t 
find out if they were happy. "Running that big hou< 


should keep you busy, Pris," she said, smiling at her. 
"Doesn t it?" 

Pris waved her hand. "Fm not good at that," she said. 
"Even with servants." 

"That s funny," Harriet said. "Elaine used to do it so 
beautifully, I thought you would have picked it up from 

"I never paid any attention before," Pris told her. "Inci 
dentally, that s what we came about, isn t it, Ken?" 

"Oh, yes," he said, looking startled. "That s the whole 
idea. Funny I almost forgot about it." He turned to look 
at Elaine. "Elaine," he said, "we want you to come and 
live with us." 

Elaine started to say something and he held his hand out 
to quiet her. "You ll be doing us a big favor," he said. 
"Pris is rather lonely, you know, since I m out on the farm 
all day. And she doesn t know how to run a house. And 
then there s the baby coming and everything. It would be 
a lot of help if you would come." 

He s sweet, Harriet thought, touched by his rather crude 
tactfulness. He doesn t fool any of us, we all know that 
Elaine will be pleased to death to stay with them, but he s 
going through all the motions. Maybe Pris is making some 
thing out of him, after all; he didn t value tact the last 
time I saw him. 

"Oh, Kenneth," Elaine said ecstatically and for once 
really embarrassed. "I don t know what to say." 

"Please don t say no," Kenneth urged her. Why, Har 
riet thought. What a turn of phrase. But I shouldn t laugh 
at him, he s very touching, really. And Elaine is so de 
lighted, this is a perfect notion. 

3i2 April i $40- July 1940: 

"Well," Elaine said hesitantly. Her face was excited and 

"Come on," Pris said, pleadingly. "Say you ll come, 
Elaine. Listen, we worked it all out. Joel and Harriet are 
going to move, anyway, next month, and if you re staying 
with us they can get a smaller apartment. It s a good time, 
don t you see?" 

"It s so sweet of you, darling," Elaine said, looking at 
her. "And, Kenneth," she added. "I m just so pleased I 
can t say anything. You re sure that you ve thought this 
over, aren t you? You don t think I ll be in the way?" She 
looked bitterly at Kit for a moment and Harriet smiled. 
It was almost as if she had said, "You see! " out loud. 

"Of course, we have!" Pris said warmly. "Haven t we, 

"Oh, yes," he said reassuringly. "And I told you, Elaine, 
it will be a big help to us. Pris needs somebody to stay with 
her now. Some other woman that s close to her." 

He s read that somewhere, Harriet thought, smiling. Pris 
isn t the sort that needs female companionship, baby or no 

"Well," Elaine said. She was pleased at the idea, Harriet 
could see her running over layettes in her mind and in 
timate womanly conversations. "If you really think you 
need me. You know I d be delighted to come. We ve missed 
you, Pris," she added, smiling at her daughter. 

Harriet wondered suddenly if Elaine would have pre 
ferred her children to be softer. Perhaps she would have 
liked it better if they had cooed over her and called her 
"Mother" and been verbally affectionate. 

"That s swell!" Kenneth said. I guess he really likes doing 
this, Harriet thought, looking at him. He likes to help peo- 



pie, it makes him feel useful. "Can you come out with us 
tonight?" he asked. "It s short notice, but we can wait while 
you pack. We brought the car in." 

"You can take the things you need now," Kit said. "And 
we ll send the rest on later." 

She seemed eager to have Elaine go. One less respon 
sibility for her, Harriet thought. But this is good for me, 
too. When Joel gets a job he ll only have himself to sup 
port. And I won t have to wait so long. So why should I 
sneer at Kit, when I have the same idea? 

She felt tired. But the dizziness had gone and her thoughts 
were more normal. She no longer felt the almost feverish 
indignation that she did at first. 

They were discussing the details of the move. She re 
membered how once she had thought them so delightful 
when they were planning things. When had it been? It was 
in South Wales, wasn t it, when Elaine had told them she 
had to sell the house. And they had argued about the Gov 
ernor Winthrop desk. And it amused me, I loved it. Now, 
they re all worked up over whether Elaine should take her 
winter wardrobe with her or not. Every one of them argu 
ing about it, even Kit, who doesn t have anything to do 
with it, and Joel, who doesn t know anything^bout it. 
And it s not amusing at all, it s even a little rrraddening; 
how the dickens will they ever get anything done at that 

"Take what you need for now, Elaine," she said. "And 
I ll pack up the rest of the things for you." 

There must have been something about her voice which 
showed that she was annoyed, they all stopped and looked 
at her. She tried to make her smile normal, to atone for 
her abruptness. "It won t take long," she said. 

314 April i$40-July 1940: 

"Well, dear, if you don t think it s too much trouble," 
Elaine said slowly. 

"No, really it isn t," Harriet insisted. "It would be nice 
for you to go out now. It s so hot here in town, you must 
want to get away." 

That decided it quickly. It was easy, really, to straighten 
out their problems. But she had to do it for them, they 
couldn t do it by themselves. What will they do after I m 
gone, she wondered. 

"Come with me, Pris," Elaine said. "And help me decide 
what I need now. I won t take too long, Kenneth. Don t 
you want to come along, Harriet?" 

"I d better," Harriet said, leaning forward with an effort. 
"So I can see what you re taking." 

She got up stiffly and followed the others down the hall. 
She noticed as she left the room that Joel was watching her 
solicitously. Poor Joel, she thought, this will be hardest 
on him. But perhaps when he has a job he ll be more self- 
confident again. The way he used to be, you couldn t hurt 
him so easily then. 

Pris sat down on the bed and lit a cigarette while Elaine 
began taking things out of her closet and her bureau draw 
ers. She looked up at her daughter. "Should you be smok 
ing, dear?" she asked. 

Harriet sat down on the chaise longue, still absorbed 
in the problem of Joel. She hardly heard them as they began 
talking about Pris s pregnancy and what she could do and 
couldn t do. 

"Heavens!" she heard Elaine say once. "It seems a long 
time ago since I had you three. I used to be so miserable 
while I was carrying you. There were so many rules then. 
Girls have it a lot easier nowadays." 


"I don t mind it at all," Pris said. "Except for looking 
like a mountain. Now that I ve gotten over being sick every 
morning. That used to be pretty gruesome." 

Harriet looked up sharply. What had she said? 

"Oh, yes!" Elaine said, waving a hand at Pris. "Nothing, 
nothing makes you feel more terrible. Just like a dish-rag. 
Even the smell of food is unbearable. Were you sick a great 
deal, darling?" 

"Not too much," Pris said. She was looking fixedly at 
Harriet and Harriet stared back at her, fascinated. "It just 
sort of took me by surprise, that s all," she said. "I d heard 
about morning sickness, but I d forgotten. The first time I 
was sick I didn t know what had happened to me. I thought 
for a while perhaps it might be the heat." 

There was something almost accusing in the look of her 
blue eyes and Harriet suddenly closed hers in horror. Oh, 
no, she said to herself. Oh, no. 

Labor Day Weekend > 


JLHE fire s heat was too great to stay close to it, 
but the rest of the room was cold. Harriet wore a sweater 
as protection for her back and stayed as near the fire as 
she could. Kit had gone upstairs with Elaine and Pris to 
look at the layette, but Harriet had made some excuse so 
that she wouldn t have to go. She was in a queer frame of 
mind, where so tangible a reminder of her own state would 
make her burst into tears. She was edgy all over, the ends 
of her teeth felt harsh and gritty, and her body ran on 
strings instead of musclescoarse strings that pulled grat 
ingly whenever she moved. She was afraid of the com 
parison between herself and Pris. Pris was so proud and 
everybody made such a fuss over her. She carried her body 
blatantly, thrusting her burden out before her, and her fam 
ily considered all her moods and whims. It wasn t fair, 
Harriet thought wearily, to have to hide her own condi 
tion. Even the poorest of women got some satisfaction out 
of the discomfort of childbearing. If they had no love 
offered them, they had their own pride. Harriet could not 
even have the pride, since the child was to be hidden away 
from everybody. 

The fire had settled, lying in a red mass in the ashes, 
the individual coals fused together so that she could hardly 
see their outlines. The fieldstone fireplace was so great that 
there were seats built into it, but you could not sit on them 
without scorching yourself. Harriet shivered, not so much 
from the chill as from a cold impulse of the nerves that 


320 Labor Day Weekend, 

suddenly ran along her back. Another wave of self-pity- 
came over her, and she brought her hand up to rub her 
eyes, trying to force back the tears. She was angry at the 
weakness, but for the moment she could not control herself. 

It was too great an anti-climax to wait day after day for 
Joel to find work. She itched constantly to tell him that 
she couldn t stay with him any longer. It was almost im 
possible to hear his plans about the new apartment when 
she knew that she wouldn t be there. She had to guard 
herself constantly against melting to one of his old moments 
of charm. She saw that she must be detached completely 
not only when she felt angry with him, but when she felt 
affectionate. Now that some of the family had their old 
prosperity back again, they were more good-natured and 
easy. It was ironical that she couldn t leave until they were 
all comfortable, and yet the more comfortable they were, 
the more tempting it became to stay. It meant that every 
day she was tied down to them like this the strength of 
her decision was slackening. 

If only something would happen quickly. Mr. Mcllvaine 
had already guessed that she was pregnant, she had been 
ill one day at his apartment. His kindliness had made the 
situation even worse. She could not bear his rather senti 
mental reflections on motherhood, and she had told him 
harshly how things were with her and how she intended to 
leave her husband as soon as she could. She was glad now 
that it had happened, because Mr. Mcllvaine had been so 
helpful, trying to find work for her, and he had talked to 
Hanson, his agent, about her, and Hanson had promised to 
hold open the job as his assistant until she was ready to take 
it. But in spite of that consolation, she was forced to realize 
that if Mr. Mcllvaine had guessed, Joel himself would soon 


guess, obtuse as he was. And if he found out he would 
make it hard for her to carry out her plans. 

She thought, smiling with some bitterness, after all he 
does have some rights in the child, and I would have to 
acknowledge them if he ever claimed them. I can t have 
much conscience. Fm not at all troubled by the thought 
of clearing out without telling him about it. But if he did 
find out, then I would be forced to acknowledge his rights. 
His arguments would serve as my conscience. 

She stretched out her hands suddenly to the fire, with 
a feeling that if she could somehow find comfort her mind 
would work more clearly. But it was useless, she knew, be 
cause it had chewed at the problem for more than a month 
now, and found no solution. 

Somebody laid a hand on her shoulder and she looked 
up and saw Kenneth. She smiled at him, she had grown to 
like him a good deal in the past month, and motioned to 
him to sit down beside her. He moved with his usual 
awkwardness, but she noticed that there was more ease to 
him these days and his manner wasn t so defiant. No matter 
what you may say about Pris, she thought, her very selfish 
ness in giving Kenneth the responsibility of herself and her 
family has helped him. It s made him mqre important to 

"Have you and Joel finished your golf?" she asked him. 
They had gone out, in spite of the weather, because Joel 
had insisted that you couldn t waste a Labor Day weekend. 

"Yes," Kenneth said. He leaned back in his chair and 
arched his back so that he could draw his pipe out of his 
pocket. He filled it slowly, looking at her and not at his 
fingers. "Joel s taking a shower," he told her. "I came ahead 
because I wanted to talk to you alone." 

3 22 Labor Day Weekend, 1940: 

She looked at him questioningly. "What is it, Ken?" she 

Kenneth lit a match and held it to his pipe, with tan 
talizing suspense. "I think I ve found him a job," he told 
her at last. "I wanted to tell you before I told him." 

She leaned forward in involuntary response. "Oh, Ken, 
how swell!" she said. Her mind suddenly sped, touching 
on the possibilities of the news. This, finally, was her re 
lease. But she couldn t bring herself to believe it. She had 
wanted it to happen for too long a time. 

"What sort of a job is it?" she asked him, anxiously. 

"Customers man," Kenneth said briefly. He threw the 
match into the fireplace. "With my brokers. I know Joel 
hasn t done that sort of work, but it sounds to me very 
much like the job he had before. It s a good deal on the 
social side." 

"It would be perfect!" she said. "Kenneth, I can t tell 
you how grateful he would be." 

Kenneth looked embarrassed and turned his head away 
from her. "There s no need for him to be grateful," he 
mumbled and she could hardly hear what he was saying. 
"I want to help." 

She wanted to tell him all about her plans. And about 
the baby too. He couldn t possibly see how really im 
portant his offer was without knowing about that. She 
looked at him eagerly, the words forming in her mouth, but 
he interrupted her by getting up. "I told Joel I d get some 
beer," he said. "I just wanted you to know about this 

She was instantly thankful that he had cut her short; this 
was something that she must keep to herself, because other 
people could hinder her. She nodded and watched him 



cross his huge, high-ceilinged living room with long steps. 
He might be sympathetic, she thought, but I can t take a 

Now that she was alone again she could think more 
clearly. Yes, it would be perfect, she decided. Joel would 
start work immediately, she would wait one or two weeks 
to see that he was properly on his feet, and then she would 
tell him about her decision and go as quickly as possible. 
It would Be wrenching, but on the other hand he would 
be pretty well absorbed with his new job and that might 
distract him. 

She had thought that she would be happy now that she 
had come to a decision. But there was something else that 
troubled her, a reluctance which made her plans seem con 
tradictory. She frowned, trying to face the feeling truly 
and analyze it. She had to admit that there was a kind of 
lethargy in her, almost a distaste for the idea now that 
release was in sight. It s impossible to keep yourself worked 
up to real indignation for so long a time, she decided. She 
reached in her pocket for a cigarette as an incentive to 
calm, and raised her eyes after touching a match to the 
end of it. She saw Joel coming down the long stairs in the 
hall. He entered the living room, walking springily, his 
face pleasant after the exercise. She guessed, half scornfully, 
half tenderly, that he had probably beaten Kenneth. 

"Hello, darling," he said. He sat down on the floor, lean 
ing against the mantel, so that he was out of direct range 
of the fire and yet some of its light fell across his face. He 
looked very fresh and handsome. It was good to see him 
clean-shaven again, and he had changed his shirt to an 
other one, which was open at the throat, white and starched. 
His hair was still damp from the shower and a little dark- 

324 Labor Day Weekend, 1940: 

ened. It made his skin look clearer and emphasized his 
blue eyes. He s happy up here, she thought. As soon as he 
gets here he changes. So do the rest of them. They are 
comfortable again. 

She moved uneasily. The resilience of this family was 
almost immoral, she thought. In the books, weakness and 
irresponsibility fall when the props are taken awayjust 
as the Randolf s had fallen. But in the books weakness never 
picks itself up again, and here were the Randolf s bright 
as day and just as charming as ever. All because Pris has 
kidnaped a rich man into marrying her, Kit has booted out 
a poor husband and relentlessly cut a few throats, and 
Elaine is sponging off her son-in-law. 

Perhaps they d never really changed. Perhaps it was only 
that poverty and living crowded together in close quarters, 
magnified their unpleasant qualities. It s like being cooped 
up in a submarine; they say men get on each other s nerves, 
jammed in with one another like that. 

And it s so confusing, she thought. How can I tell what 
to do if nothing is according to the rules? Leaving them 
is such a self-righteous thing to do anyway. How can I 
do it unless I feel really sure? 

"You re awfully quiet," Joel said, watching her, a light 
from the fire making his eyes reflect brightness. "What are 
you thinking about?" His voice was easy and tolerant as 
it had been when they were first married. For a second she 
went back to the old habit of thinking and felt pampered 
and insignificant. 

"Nothing," she said, uneasily, disliking the reaction. "Ab 
solutely nothing. Just trying to keep warm." 

"It is cold, isn t it?" he said, stretching his arms out and 
yawning. She lost the sense of his dominance again. 


"Miserably," she said, letting the word fall quietly so 
as to subdue him. She didn t want to talk. 

The fire crackled and Joel reached over to put another 
log on it. His clear skin reddened under the glow, and she 
watched his movements absent-mindedly. 

Kenneth came back with a tray of glasses and bottles 
and set it down on the floor beside them. "The women 
folk are coming along in a minute," he said. "As soon as 
they put the things away. Pris has given them a complete 
fashion show." 

Joel said something to him, Harriet hardly noticed what 
it was. Her thoughts were running like counterpoint to 
their talk. I m going to escape at last, she thought, but her 
mind was still unable to accept the reality of the idea and 
she kept touching at it as if it were a raw spot, and then 
drawing back from it. 

Ken handed each of them a glass. "Here s to the Tryson 
son and heir! " Joel said, lifting his in a toast. 

"You re a little premature, aren t you?" Kenneth asked 
him. "Suppose it s a girl?" 

"She should be drunk to just the same," Joel said, smil 
ing. "Personally, I like the idea of a niece. I ll take her to 
dances when she grows up. Harriet won t feel like any 
thing so undignified by then." 

Harriet smiled ruefully, thinking about the future. To 
night I ll be destroying all that confidence, she thought. 
And he needs it so badly. 

She wondered what it would be like to live alone. 

"I d like a girl, myself," Kenneth said. "Little girls are 
always so cute. Like kittens." 

"That s right," Joel said, nodding. "They don t seem 
to go through that gawky stage that little boys do. Not that 

326 Labor Day Weekend, 194.0: 

I d object to a nephew either. Could take him to football 

Harriet thought, what would you say if you knew you 
were going to have a son or daughter yourself? But the 
words were not real, it was impossible to think of Joel as 
having any part in their child. Perhaps, she thought bit 
terly, it s because he s shared so few of the responsibilities 
lately that I ve just got used to taking care of things by 

She saw that Kenneth was looking at her inquiringly. He 
was anxious to tell Joel about the job, and their chatter 
made him impatient. She fixed her attention on them with 
an effort. This is important, she thought. Her expression 
must have indicated that she was ready and Kenneth looked 
suddenly back to Joel. 

"Say, by the way, Joel," he said clumsily. Joel turned 
his alert face towards him. 

"Yes?" he asked. 

Kenneth hesitated for a second and Harriet wished that 
she could help him. When they had first known him he 
had been protected by a sort of pride, but now that he 
had softened he was completely exposed and helpless. 

"I was talking to Walter Mayhew," he said. "My broker. 
He gave me an idea for you, Joel." 

Joel s face suddenly changed. He had stiffened it as 
if he knew what was coming. 

"Really?" he asked. "What sort of an idea, Ken?" 

Kenneth hesitated another second. "For a job," he said, 
almost apologetically. "I know you ve been having hard 
luck, Joel, and I don t mean to meddle, but I heard about 
this job that I thought might be suited to you. It s not the 
same as your old onenot exactly. But it s similar. Mayhew 


wants a customers man, a salesman. A big part of your 
work would be entertaining people and that sort of thing. 
I think you could pick up whatever you need to know 
very quickly down there. It s not very technical. And I 
know you d be good at it. You get along well with people 
and you re used to doing business that way. What do you 

He sounded as if he were arguing with Joel, trying to 
convince him. Harriet, watching Joel, was surprised to see 
a sort of stubbornness come into his face and she had the 
feeling that he actually needed persuading. 

"That s very nice of you, Kenneth," he said. His voice 
was quiet and too polite. "I m grateful to you for think 
ing of me." They waited impatiently while he was silent 
for a moment. "I don t think Fm suited to that kind of 
work, though," he said, finally. "I hate to sound ungracious, 
but I honestly don t think I could do it. And it would be 
so much worse if I was a flop at it. It would be embar 
rassing for you as well as for me." 

"But you don t quite understand," Kenneth said. He 
looked completely bewildered. "I m sure it s right for you. 
I think you ll be quite a success at it." 

"You forget," Joel said. His voice and expression were 
full of a sort of painful irony. "I wasn t a great success at 
my other job. No reason to suppose I d be any good at 
this, is there?" 

Harriet thought, how stupid we were! I d forgotten how 
he hated his work before. She remembered how he had 
told her once that he was scared. She had lost sight of that 
in her excitement, and Kenneth, of course, had never 
known. She looked at Kenneth and saw that he was ex 
amining his glass in a troubled way. She wished that she 

328 Labor Day Weekend, 1940: 

could explain to him what had gone wrong, he was so ob 
viously puzzled. 

"But, Joel," he said. "You do want to work, don t you? 
Why don t you just give it a try?" 

"Thanks," Joel said. His voice was so polite that it cut 
out argument. "But I think it would be a mistake, Ken. I 
honestly do. No, it would be wiser for me to try for a dif 
ferent sort of job altogether. I feel sure that something will 
turn up soon, I have a lot of leads out." 

His words were final and they ended the discussion. Har 
riet and Kenneth sat looking down at their hands, and 
Harriet s mind, now that it had received its first shock, 
began fumbling for a solution. What had happened to 
Joel, was his confidence permanently ruined? Was this 
going to destroy everything she had planned? She hadn t 
counted on his upsetting things this way. 

She felt they all expected her to say something, but she 
couldn t think of anything. The silence stretched out pain 
fully. Harriet to occupy her hands took another sip of her 
beer, and was momentarily distracted by the now familiar 
nausea that came over her. Not as strong as it had once 
been, just a reminder of what her body contained, and of 
that other part to her problem. 

She looked down at her hands almost tearfully. Poor 
Joel, she thought. We re both in a mess, a terrible mess. 

Pris, Elaine and Kit came down the long stairs talking 
and laughing together. They made a welcome interruption 
which covered up the silence of the three by the fireplace. 
Pris came over to Kenneth and sat on the arm of his chair. 

"Give me a sip of beer, papa," she commanded imperi 
ously, and he smiled and stretched his glass up to her. 

"That baby is going to be so lovely!" Elaine told Ken- 


neth sentimentally. "I ve never seen such beautiful things." 

Harriet, huddled back in her corner of the couch, tried 
to withdraw herself so that nobody would speak to her. 
She was trembling. Everything in her life had suddenly 
been tossed up again into a rubbish heap of confusion, and 
she had to go back to the dreary task of sorting it out. The 
others were disconcerting, but her trouble was so important 
that she could continue thinking about it in spite of the 

Some remnant of her mind caught Eat saying, "What s 
the matter with you, Joel? You look like the last rose of 
summer/ Kit was handsome in the old way. The two 
nights of good sleep had relaxed her tight face and her 
skin was smooth under her eyes. Why were all of them 
so attractive suddenly? It was almost devilish. 

Joel looked at her unsmilingly. "Nothing," he said. "I 
was just thinking." 

"Unnatural activity," Kit said lightly. Harriet wanted to 
try to stop her, Joel was in no temper to be teased, but to 
her surprise, Joel smiled. 

"I ll stop," he said easily. 

Of course, it s all right for Kit to tease him, Harriet re 
alized. She doesn t know what s going on. But he doesn t 
dare face Kenneth and me. She had a savage impulse to 
take his face between her hands and say, "Look at me!" 
She watched him telling Kit about the golf and his voice 
was quite gay again. 

In fact, all of them were light and easy, even Kenneth 
had joined in with them. She was the only one who could 
not control herself; she found it impossible to laugh or to 
concentrate on what they were saying. She closed her eyes 
for a second. I can t stop thinking about this, she thought. 

330 Labor Day Weekend, 1940: 

It keeps jabbing at me. Elaine asked her something and 
she answered absently, half opening her eyes. The red light 
from the fire made the eyes and hair of all of them seem 
darker, and flushed their faces. Seen through her lashes 
they were blurred, just as they were in her mind, vague in 
terruptions to something important. 

"Yes," she told Elaine. "I ll go up and look at it this 
afternoon, if Pris doesn t mind showing it again." 

"How s your headache?" Pris asked solicitously. 

Joel looked at her sharply, she noticed, and then turned 
back quickly to Kit again. Harriet half frowned to herself. 
He was afraid that if their eyes met he would be caught. 

"Better, thanks," she told Pris. 

He s afraid of me, she thought, with a feeling of pity. 
Oh, she felt, this is going to be difficult and painful. If Fm 
going to leave him at all, I ve got to tell him now. Right 
away, tonight, job or no job. Or I ll never do it. I ve got to 
harden myself so that I feel as indignant as I did a month 
ago, and not wait any longer. But how will I tell him? What 
can I possibly say? She searched desperately in her mind for 
words. How do you tell a man you want a divorce? She 
rehearsed the scene, framing words and phrases that would 
be the firmest and yet the kindest. Joel, she said to herself. 
Why did you turn down Ken s job? You can t afford to 
turn down jobs, don t you know that? I know you ve had 
a rotten experience but you ve got to forget it. Because 
there s something I ve got to tell you but no, that wouldn t 
be the right way to say it. Her lips moved slightly as she 
rephrased her thoughts. 

Kit, who was standing in front of the fireplace, moved 
sideways so that the light increased on Harriet s face. 


"Gosh, it will be awful to go back to New York tonight," 
she said woefully. "It s so nice up here." 

Harriet immediately visualized that train ride with all 
of them tired and feeling unkempt. Would she have to sit 
beside Joel, knowing that she was leaving, that she wanted 
a divorce? Seeing over and over again in her mind the words 
she would have to use in telling him about it? No, that 
would be too hard, she thought weakly. 

Now she was growing more and more afraid of herself 
and the fears which kept intruding into her plans. How 
could any words be kind, she thought once, when you re 
giving one more blow to a man who s already crippled? 
But you can t allow yourself to consider that, she told her 
self, the words shaping in her mind almost as if they were 
spoken, because they were superimposed on the pattern 
that was forming in her true consciousness. I ve got to talk 
to him now, the outer voice said suddenly, before I lose 
my resolution. If I could just get him away from the others. 

Kenneth perhaps sensed her problem, at any rate he was 
helping her by drawing the others into conversation and 
leaving Joel out of it, to look around and meet her eyes. 
But Joel was unwilling, he was hard to catch. In a way it 
was fortunate, it made her angry and that strengthened her 
a bit. All right, she thought grimly, if that s the way you 
want to act. 

"Joel," she said. "Come upstairs with me, will you? I 
want to change for lunch. Keep me company." 

In front of the others, Joel couldn t object. She felt like a 
gangster kidnaping somebody at the point of a gun. He 
got up slowly, still holding his glass, and looked around for 
a place to put it down. Kenneth reached up and took it and 
smiled across at Harriet sympathetically. She was grateful 

332 Labor Day Weekend, 1940: 

to him. Kenneth thinks I m going to straighten all this out, 
she thought. But he doesn t know how drastically. She 
moved ahead of Joel, leading the way to the stairs, feeling 
completely numb. 

They were silent without pretense as they climbed the 
stairs in front of the others. Neither of them spoke until 
they got into the bedroom. Joel had closed the door behind 
them and he stood with his hands on his hips looking at her 

"You think I m screwy, don t you?" he said, opening im 
mediately with what was in their minds. 

Now she was sorry for him again, and she turned away 
so that she didn t have to look at him. He was so dependent 
on her good opinion, he was bracing himself for her disap 
proval. She thought, almost irrelevantly, that there was one 
thing she had gained from living with him and his family. 
She was strong now. When she looked back on it, she 
realized that she never had that dream about the little man 
and the little woman any more. In a funny way, Joel had 
given her a sort of security. Not the security of being 
looked after, but the security of independence. 

"I can t understand you, that s all," she said. She picked 
up her hairbrush from the bureau, and balanced it in her 
hand, feeling its ivory back cool against her palm. 

"Well, I knew what I was doing," he said, still belliger 

"Oh, I understand in a way," she said. 

"You ought to know I d be no good at that sort of 
thing," he said. He crumpled suddenly, appealing to her. 
"I was such a flop at it before. I want something different, 
Harriet. I want to work somewhere where I can bury my 
self behind a glass partition and grind out a day s work. 


I don t want to be the party boy, I don t want to take the 

"But, Joel," she said. She was miserable for him, and her 
pity had almost completely distracted her from the things 
she had planned to say. "You mustn t let yourself be so 
upset about that one failure," she told him. You can t 
change your whole life because of it. You must try again, 
you haven t given yourself a fair chance." 

He looked at her sullenly. "I m not going to kid myself," 
he said. "Harriet, listen to me. I hate that kind of world, 
and I hate the people in it God, you don t know how 
wretched I was before. I m not a shirker, but I want some 
thing more definite to do, I don t want to rely on personal 
ity. Listen, you don t know what it s like! If you have a 
hangover one day and feel lousy, you ve still got to be gay 
and charming. If you ve had a row with your wife, say, the 
night before, or if you re worried about money, you can t 
let anybody know about it, you have to keep on smiling 
and having drinks with the boys, and telling dirty stories. 
God, how I hate it, Harriet. I don t want that kind of work 
ever again." 

"Oh, Joel, darling," she said. He wanted her sympathy 
so terribly he was begging for it. "I m sorry you feel that 
way about it." 

"I can t help it," he said childishly. 

It was like beheading a person, you had to strike quickly 
and at the vital point. "I was only upset because we can t 
afford to be tossing jobs away right now," she said, harden 
ing her voice. "I thought you ought to take it." 

Her excitement and distress were working on her. She 
was aware once more that her legs were trembling and 
that she was weak. So much depended on what she would 

334 Labor Day Weekend, 1940: 

say, she was losing her strength and her coolness, she didn t 
know how to begin. She grew dizzy and put out her hand 
for the bureau. She missed it and felt foolish, fumbling for 
it again. But she was too far away and she staggered a little, 
falling against it heavily. She must have shown that she was 
feeling ill, because Joel suddenly came up to her and took 
her by the shoulders. She wanted to shake his hands away, 
she felt fretful at his touch. Leave me alone, she wanted to 
say, you re confusing everything. 

"Harriet," he said. "What s wrong? You ve been feeling 
badly an awful lot lately, I ve noticed it. What s wrong 
with you?" He paused, looking down at her. "You re not 
going to have a baby, are you?" 

She straightened under his hands. "Yes," she said dully. 
Now it was out and she would have to go on with what she 
was going to say. But he interrupted her. 

"Oh, my darling," he said, and pulled her up to him to 
kiss her. She wanted to resist him, but she felt it would be 
too cruel. She closed her eyes and was limp. "Harriet, dear 
est," he said. 

"Joel," she said, opening her eyes. "There s something 
I want to tell you" 

But he interrupted her again. He hardly seemed to. have 
heard her. "Why didn t you tell me before?" he asked her. 
"Were you too shy? My sweet, I m so happy." 

Shy! she thought bitterly. 

"Listen," he said. He took her hand and led her over to 
the bed, making her sit down and sitting down beside her. 
"Have you been to a doctor yet? I want you to have the 
best attention, maybe you ought to go to Pris s man." 

"No," she said. She was still trying to tell him. 

"Won t the others be surprised?" he said. "Wait till we 
tell them. We can tell them now, can t we, darling, they ll 


want to know. They ll be so happy, all of them. We all love 
you so much, you know that, don t you, Harriet?" 

He was rubbing her nose in the dirt. 

He put his arm around her and drew her tight against 
him so that her head rested on his shoulder. "Why didn t 
you tell me, you litde bum!" he said again, shaking her 

"Joel," she said, stiff in his embrace. 

"I wonder what it ll be," he said. "You know, it s funny, 
isn t it, we were just wondering about Pris s baby a mo 
ment ago. You must have been grinning to yourself. And 
now I have my own to think about. Isn t it marvelous! " 

Your own, she thought almost angrily. What will you do 
for it? You ve just finished telling me you don t want to 
work for it. 

"You know, if it s a boy we ought to name it for Dad," 
he said eagerly. "Elaine would be so tickled. Shall we do 
that, darling? John. I think that s a good name. Something 
solid about it, isn t there? A respectable citizen he ll be, 
our John. I like that." He nodded to himself. 

She wanted to put up her hand and take his chin in it 
and force him to look at her, to be still and think. Listen, 
she wanted to say to him. But she couldn t. He had been 
sunk before, he had had no job, and no self-respect. But 
now suddenly he was happy because he was going to have 
a child. She couldn t say to him that she was going to go 
away, to take his child somewhere else, never to see him 

My God, she thought, I ve been completely idiotic. I 
thought I was a realistic person, but I ve never visualized 
this or I would have known how it would turn out. This 
is what Joel needed. He s self-confident suddenly, and 
proud of himself. 

336 Labor Day Weekend, 194.0: 

"I ll take Kenneth s job, by heaven!" he said exuberantly. 
"And what s more, I ll show them a thing or two." 

It was too ironic, to get what she wanted this way. But 
now she must go ahead and tell him, mustn t she? This was 
what she had been waiting for, wasn t it? But he went on 
talking about his son. His plans were extravagant and 
ridiculous. She listened to him going on and on, growing 
wilder with every suggestion. She knew him so well, she 
knew that actually none of this would last. He would go 
to work, she told herself, and be excited for a while and 
then everything would collapse all over again. It isn t fair, 
she thought, it isn t fair for him to want me to lead that 
kind of a life with him. To expose my child to his ups and 
downs. But in spite of everything she was being convinced 
by his sureness. It was impossible to believe that anybody 
so happy and so alive could revert to being the weak, un 
shaven man she had known in the last few months. 

As she listened something began ebbing out of her. It was 
like taking part in an argument. She had something perti 
nent and devastating to tell him, but he was getting further 
and further away from the point. She would have to resist 
his sidetracking, and when he paused draw him back to the 
beginning. But in the meantime the things he was talking 
about tempted her. I must concentrate, she thought, I must 
stick to my point. If I begin talking about the baby with 
him, I m lost. 

"I want him to go to college," Joel told her, flinging out 
his hand grandly. "He s going to have everything, by 


It was like hypnotism, the way her determination was 
slipping away. 


"He ll be blond, I ll bet," Joel told her, smiling. "My 

She opened her mouth and closed it again. No. No! she 
told herself firmly. If I let him draw me in, it will be 
the end of everything. Really the end. She saw it clearly. 
It was funny, just one little sentence would commit her 
completely. Once she let him assume that everything was 
what he supposed it would be too late to go back on her 

"Think of Elaine when she hears about this," Joel said. 
"Two grandchildren at once! She ll go crazy." 

Now, she thought, be careful. You know you can t share 
this delight and then tell him you re going to go away. 
You can t do that. 

"If he has crooked teeth or anything, he s going to wear 
a brace," Joel told her. "I know it s hard, but it s worth it. 
It really is." 

It was so trivial. She slipped. 

"Suppose it s a girl?" she asked him. And then stopped. 
But now it was too late. He seized on that little wedge of 
admission as if he had been waiting for it. They were shar 
ing it together now, their child and their plans. Now she 
could never tell him, she thought desperately. Her eyes 
went all around the room looking at everything but Joel. 
Just one little sentence. 

"I hope it is a girl, as a matter of fact," he said. 

In a way she felt almost relieved. Well, she thought. It s 
over now, anyway. 

"Just like you," Joel went on, smiling down at her. 

Harriet closed her eyes to hide the last spurt of her re 
bellion. Behind the shut lids it died away.